Greece's Olive production at a record low

Greetings from Greece!

I arrived in late October and after a few weeks visiting up north and the bigger towns and cities, I find myself in Crete. Here, it's olive harvest time; however, I can see that things are a bit challenging
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An olive tree is unique in that one year it will produce a lot of fruit, followed by a year of low production. This season, Greece's olive production is a sixth of what it was in 2012—50,000 tonnes versus 300,000. The small output isn't a result of the effect of the biennial crop alone. In February and March, when the trees produce their blossoms, a dust cloud made its way from the Sahara desert blanketing fields on the southern mainland of Greece and Crete, ultimately preventing pollination. At the same time, unseasonal warm weather, combined with heavy rains, devastated crops. Not to mention last week's heavy hail storm in the western part of Crete, whereby most of the trees have been robbed of their olives altogether.

Coupled with the country's overall economic hardships, there is anxiety among olive oil producers in the north and south of Crete. In all my years in Greece, never have I seen olive trees without olives. Yet about 70% of the harvest is lost—and with the persistence of the fruit fly, greater lost is estimated. What's more, olive orchards—benefiting from a bumper crop—were surprised at the mill as their olives were dry from the lack of rain and did not yield as much oil as anticipated. All around, times are tough.

For those questioning climate change's effects, it is clear as day that unstable and unpredictable weather patterns and temperatures are taking their toll on Greek olive oil production. Then again, Spain is looking forward to a recording-breaking bumper crop—producing over 1.6 million tonnes of olive oil, compared to 600,000 tonnes the year before. We can only hope that next year blesses Greek olive oil production with the same good fortune.

Basil Olive Oil Products is soon to enter its 17th year of business. It's been quite the journey—filled with great success and many learning curves. But over the course we have come to realize that all good things take time. It's imperative to build a strong foundation based on ethical practices, hard work and trust from our retailers and customers. We are thankful that in spite of the challenges faced here in Greece, that the Greek spirit, our harvest and community continues to thrive.

To a great year and may 2014 be even brighter for us all!

From the olive grove,

Basil Koutalianos

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