Greek Production of Olive Oil

Today the production of olive oil in Greece is based on numerous small farms scattered across the country. The extensive shorelines of 15.021 km favor olive tree cultivation. Due to the growing popularity of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) oils, there are now 17 such regions in Greece. Each one produces olive oil with distinct characteristics.

Peloponnese

The mountainous areas of Peloponnese are among the best known for their olive oil. Over Mount Taigetos, the area of Lakonia with its capital of Sparta offers 3 distinctive types of PDO oils. Here the variety of Koroneiki is mixed with Athinolia giving lighter oil with more citrus and nutty tones. The area of Lygourio and Kranidi in eastern Peloponnese produces sweeter oils due to the dominant presence of the Manaki variety.

Kalamata PDO

PDO – Protected Designation of Origin – is an EU definition showing that PDO products have a sense of place discernible in the flavor of the food. They must be produced, processed and prepared in a specific region using traditional production methods. This gives them a unique quality and special charateristics, linked to the climate, the nature of the soil and local know-how. The mountainous areas of Peloponnese are among the best known for their olive oil. The PDO region of Kalamata in the west produces excellent oil from the Koroneiki olive but not from the Kalamata olive, which is exclusively used as table olive. The funnel shaped valley that spreads all the way to the coast, hosts vast groves which produce a robust olive oil with fruity, mild and balanced flavor.

Crete

Crete is the most prominent island for olive oil. The vastness of the island groves, led naturally to the immediate registration of 9 PDO regions for the island of Crete. Again Koroneiki variety dominates here, but some local varieties are found, such as Tsounati, Throumbalia and Hondrolia, which account for the distinct flavor of each individual region.

You may not know it, but if you are an olive oil lover, you have tasted Greek olive oil at least once. Here's how:

Greek olive oil production is in excess of 300,000 tons annually. Greece, even though quite small, holds 3rd place among olive oil producing companies. As much as 70% of all production is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Per capita consumption on the other hand is also the highest in the world - almost 16 kilos (32 pounds) annually! Still, there is enough left for over 1/3 of the annual production (135,000 tons) to be exported. In fact Greece is the world's largest exporter of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

All those involved in the production and marketing of olive oil know the superior quality and the excellent organoleptic properties of Greek olive oil, which exported in bulk, quietly sneaks into bottles and cans to silently grant its unparalleled taste and aroma to olive oil packaged and sold elsewhere. So a regular olive oil consumer has tasted Greek Olive Oil at least once. Greek Olive Oil is mainly exported to the EU amounting to 90% of total olive oil exports (80% in bulk plus 10% Greek brand name olive oil). There is a rise though in other countries as well, such as Canada, Australia, Japan and the US.

The presence of Greek brand-name olive oil in the international market has been for many years minimal. It was not easy for the average consumer to get to Greek olive oil. In the recent years, though, there has been a steady change as Greek exports have increased greatly. This increase to a certain extent reflects the upward swing in overall olive oil consumption due to the shift towards healthy nutrition and the consequent proliferation of Mediterranean cuisine. And as the international consumer learns to recognize the value of olive oil, he/she will come to recognize what the experts already know: the incomparable virtues and personality of Greek olive oil.

What does Greece mean for world olive oil production

  • 120 million producing olive trees
  • Yearly average production: 350 thousand metric tons (16% of world production)
  • Greece is the largest producer of Extra Virgin Olive Oil worldwide: 80% of its production is Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Its value amounts to 1.4 billion Euros (subsidies from EU included)

Main Areas of Production:

  • Peloponese : 35%
  • Crete : 30%
  • Mitilini : 5%
  • Ionian Islands : 5%