#FOODHEROES

Olives in Greece

While Spain and Italy produce more olives, Greeks consume more olive oil than any other nation in the world. Olives are also a critical part of the Greek economy, amounting to US$700 million every year. And because of the strong role olive oil plays in Greek heritage, the cultivation, health and growth of olives is extra important to farmers, scientists and consumers alike.

Day labourers separate leaves from olives during harvest on Giorgos Papavasilis' olive grove, Attiki, Greece

The Challenge

The biggest problem facing olive growers worldwide is the olive fruit fly. Greek olive farmer Giorgos Papavasilis says he has to keep his crops protected from the fruit fly at all times. “The fly bites into the olive and leaves its eggs inside. When these larvae are born, they feed on the olive.” Without proper crop control, Giorgos says he would lose forty to fifty percent of his entire olive crop.

Oil coming out of the press at the olive oil Nikolaou family plant in Megara, Greece

The Solution

Plant scientist Kostas Dimizas specializes in finding effective measures for tackling olive fruit flies. “We do as much testing as possible to make sure we can provide optimal protection for farmers’ crops,” says Kostas. “When we develop a new insecticide, we choose a testing area where the problem is rampant, like Crete, and carefully measure the results.” For Kostas, the process is personal. “I don’t just want a good product for consumers, but my own family and kids consume this olive oil. And I only want the best for them.”

Olives at the olive oil Nikolaou family plant in Megara, Greece