There are over 800 million olive trees in the world, which makes the olive one of the most extensively cultivated fruit crops in the world. The ten largest producing countries are all around the Mediterranean. World Olive oil production in the 2014/2015 growing season was 2.46 million tons, of which 300,000 tons came from Greece (Reference: www.internationaloliveoil.org). However, production rates do not describe the benefits of Greek Olive Oil versus other sources, as a more in depth look reveals much more.
For ages the olive has been and continues to be very important to the Greek culture. Olive oil is a very important part of Greek nutrition and the Greek consumer is very particular to the oil he uses in his diet. He has known quality olive oil for years, has identified himself with it. Olive oil is a sacred food in Greece and no alterations or changes of any kind are allowed. Greece has laws that regulate the quality of olive oil and these laws are strictly enforced for the protection of the consumer. But more important than that, the Greek farmer takes a special pride in the production of olive oil. Extra care is taken at all stages of olive oil production and packaging and standards are kept very high indeed. The Result: In 2016, Greece can call 82% of all its olive oil as Extra Virgin. Italy and Spain can only claim 65% and 50% respectively.
The olive oil packaging industry, one of the oldest and healthiest Greek industries, numbers several large enterprises with international ties as well as medium or family sized enterprises. The olive oil packaging is done using stringent quality control methods with many companies functioning under ISO or HACCP quality control rules. Companies check more than 25 parameters in every olive oil batch. This process is expensive, but the consumer is assured the specifications on labels match the container contents.
Many new agreements and legislation in recent years assure company reliability and safety control. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the category mainly produced in Greece comes in four categories: Regular Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Extra Virgin, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Extra Virgin and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). In fact, most of Greek olive oil can be called organic even though it may not have the official seal, as many producers do not apply fertilizers and spraying has been banned. Virtually all regionally available olive oils with no national distribution could well claim the designation of PDO as they are locally produced and packaged, or PGI as they are locally produced and/or packaged.
Given that other countries have higher production rates as stated above, why this does not apply for other countries? The answer is quite simple; Greece imported zero tons from other countries. In contrast, Italy imported 104.7 thousand tons– more than any other country, and Spain imported 96 thousand tons– third behind the United States during the 2014/2015 growing season. The only olive oil available in Greece is Greek olive oil, no danger of getting any other kind of origin of olive oil. There are no blends or mixtures of Greek and foreign olive oils, something that is common practice in other olive oil producing countries. When it says Greek olive oil, there is nothing else present except Greek olive oil.
So the original question, “Why Greek Olive Oil?” can now be answered easily. As always, the answer is as has been for millennia – Quality!