When everything is going wrong the successful look for what is going right and begin mining that. One thing going right in Greece is olive oil.
This article was originally published in Greek on Huffingtonpost.gr – http://www.huffingtonpost.gr/marilyn-harding/-_1495_b_8122708.html
Here in Greece gold lies on the rocky mountain terrain, valley tracts, along roadsides and in backyards. It is the olive tree and the precious juice from its fruit called olive oil.
Today capital controls on the banks continue to curtail personal and professional activity and freedom. A looming election and intense anticipation of bailouts or bail-ins lay like a mist of apprehension on the hearts of every Greek. But in the midst of all this uncertainty is the absolute certainty of the season, nature as she sweeps relentlessly across the land in spring rains and summer heat that ripen the olives.
The matters of economy and men must be set aside while the harvest demands attention. In a few months the mills will be overfull with bushels and bags of olives waiting their turn to be processed.
In ancient times, Greece exported oil to the farthest reaches of the known world. Greece continues to be one of the three leading exporters of olive oil, but its currency has been devalued.
On the greater scale, mills mix batches of oil, pay the grower the going rate and then negotiate with distributers both national and international. Consequently some of the finest olive oil in the world is sold undervalue. But that is changing. And like any market that will thrive, it all depends on demand. And what the growing health conscious consumer is demanding is food that is pure, unadulterated, and is what it says it is – nothing more, nothing less.
No longer convinced by high price and fancy packaging, discerning consumers in Europe, North America and elsewhere want to know more. Source, practices, ingredients. These aspects now become part of the product and a few Greek olive growers and producers are starting to catch on.
While many olive producing countries turn to high yield production methods and specialization, Greece counts over two hundred species of olive trees, both wild and domestic. Geographic and weather conditions have created diverse pockets of groves with characteristics differing even within the grove. It seems in the wisdom of Nature herself, drought and stress causes the most intense infusion of healthy compounds in the olive fruit. Ancient Greeks guided by their highly developed skills of observation noted that it was the early harvest of green olives that, perhaps yielded less in quantity, but so much more in healthful quality. The oil was in fact considered medicinal in nature.
Science and research into the health promoting phenolic compounds in olive oil, in particular oleocanthal and oleacein corroborate this wisdom. Olive oil may be used for the prevention and/or treatment of many illnesses that plague our culture today. Various methods of measurement, some more accurate and/or costly than others offer the producer the means to identify the oils with the higher phenolic compounds. The practical olive producer can now meet the demand of the informed public.
The EU labelling regulation has said that oils containing 250mg/kg of polyphenols can make a health claim to reduce LDL oxidation. This means it supports heart health. Here in Greece 98% of the olives have high levels of these beneficial polyphenols. More and more Greek olive oils tested by NMR or Aristoleo™ measure several times more than this.
There is gold here in the mountains and valleys, roadsides and yards in Greece. But it needs to be harvested and produced with care. Sorted with diligence and labelled with integrity. There is a world waiting for what Greece has to offer. It is of value. It’s in demand and it is abundant.
What does that mean in coinage? Historical prices over the past decade for Greek olive oil sold in bulk, often to Italy, average €2.80 – €3.10/litre. Influenced by research, the Dafnis family of Corfu changed their harvesting and milling practices two years ago and have one of the highest levels of Oleocanthal and Oleacein yet measured. This type of high phenolic olive oil “The Governor” can sell for more than 20 euros per kilo in bulk.
A recent article in Bloomberg entitled “Greece Gets Something Right!” sited increased sales of Greek olive oil due mainly to the lower price. That is not success story.
A new breed of visionary Greeks are writing a new success story. They do not want to compete based on the lowest price; they seek out excellence and – like in ancient times – wish to share this excellence with the world.