The big launch is taking place in the last year – Thefts are now increasing as oil became a luxury item – What producers are reporting
Oil tends to be a luxury item. Prices on supermarket shelves have soared and in the space of two years have almost doubled, blowing family budgets.
From 7.31 euros which was the average price in November 2021 and 8.5 euros in the corresponding month last year, it now reaches 15 euros, based on the data of the digital platform of the Greek Ministry of Development e-katanalotis.
The rise in olive oil prices is global and this year they are now reaching record levels. At the end of 2019, wholesale prices had fallen below 3 euros per kilo. Now they have exceeded 9 euros.
They have more than tripled in the space of four years, this fact gives the opportunity to various astute people to take advantage of the situation, causing despair among the producers.
Konstantinos Markou is one of them. In one of his olive groves, he found that thieves broke in and cut branches, even whole trees that were centuries old.
He believes that a solution to the problem would be to tighten the penalties. Today this kind of theft is a misdemeanor, but to him it should be a felony.
Destruction of the cutting of centuries-old olive trees
Burglary of warehouses, accounting frauds and the adulteration of the produced oil are phenomena that are increasing exponentially not only in Greece but also in Spain and Italy.
Nikos Papachristou runs an olive mill and a nearby olive grove in a fourth-generation family business.
The fear of thieves coming in with chainsaws and cutting down his trees forces him to harvest as early as possible and therefore settle for lower yields to try to avoid long-term damage.
“Thieves look for heavily laden branches and cut them. Thus, they not only steal our olives, but also cause serious damage to the tree. It takes 4-5 years to return to normal,” says Papachristou.
The effects of climate change are also serious
This kind of criminal activity with gangs using chainsaws to cut branches and even whole trees in unguarded olive groves, increases the anxiety of growers who are already struggling with high production costs and the effects of climate change: warm winters, long floods and intense forest fires.
Among them is Christos Bekas, who owns 5,000 olive trees. After repeated raids by thieves, he decided to proceed with an early harvest of his crop. But this has a number of negative consequences.
“Last year, 3.7 kilos of olives would produce one kilo of oil. Now that it is close to 10 kilos of olives for one kilo of oil, for my 600 kilos of olives I will get 60 kilos of oil. Last year I got 180,” says Bekas.
The two-year drought in Spain affected all of Europe
After decades of growth, the international olive oil market has been disrupted by a nearly two-year drought in southern Spain, a country that used to account for 40% of global supply.
According to European Union estimates, the Spanish recession helped cut global output to 2.5 million tonnes in the 2022-23 growing season from 3.4 million a year earlier.
All this creates a shortage of olive oil, which consequently causes prices to skyrocket. And the predictions are not auspicious for the future.
Annual exports from Greece more than doubled in the first five months of 2023, as neighboring Turkey suspended exports in August to protect its domestic market.
With global demand remaining high, international importers are often willing to offer prices even higher than domestic prices.
At the same time, rising temperatures are affecting flowering, farmers and experts warn, while higher fertilizer prices and labor shortages are also weighing on costs.