Known for its health benefits, olive oil is such a defining part of the food culture in the Levant and Mediterranean region. Turkey aims to be #2, reports Arieh O’Sullivan.
Government incentives and intensive planting of vast new plantations hope to set Turkey on path to topple rivals Italy, Greece and Tunisia for number two olive producing slot in the world.
Turkey is working hard on overtaking its Mediterranean neighbors to become the world’s second largest producer of olive oil.
Currently the world’s fifth largest producer, Turkey is expected to cater to the growing global market for olive oil in North America and the Far East, while leaving Spain, Italy and Greece to sell in Europe.
“For the past decade we have been increasing the number of cultivated olive trees,” said Metin Olken, Deputy Chairman of the Turkish Olive and Olive Oil Publicity Committee. “Today we have young trees but we are expecting to triple our total production and become the number two olive oil producer in the world.”
About 95% of the world’s olive trees are in the Mediterranean region. Turkey currently produces about 200,000 tons of olive oil annually. This is dwarfed by the world’s largest producer, Spain, which currently makes over 1.2 million tons of oil.
“In two or three years we will be very close to producing half a million tons of olive oil,” Olken told The Media Line.
This would put them above Italy, Greece and Tunisia, who are currently second, third and fourth respectively.
According to Olken, the government helped boost the production of olives by offering financial incentives and subsidies to help cover the cost of planting and cultivation in the first few years before the trees begin to bear fruit.
The olive oil industry in Turkey employs hundreds of thousands of people. Turkey has already become the world’s largest producer of pickled table olives.
“The main market for the olive oil will be North America,” Olken said. “But Japan, China and Russia [will also be important].”
Turkish olive oil exports are not likely to try penetrating the European market directly since it is subject to heavy duties aimed at protecting the EU member states of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
“The Turks certainly have the ability to get a large chunk of the market,” said Tzuri Shtevi, an Israeli olive plantation owner who has extensive business ties with the Turkish olive industry. “They don’t lack farmland and their government is supporting them.”
According to Shtevi, standardized international quality control will ensure that Turkish olive oil will be able to compete in terms of quality with European producers in North America and the Far East.
“But really there is a lack of olive oil in the world,” Shtevi said. “Producers can’t keep up with demand.”
Shtevi said the advantage Turkey had compared to, say, Israel was that it’s large land mass allowed less intensive yields than in Israel.
“They are content with a yield of about 800 kilos a dunam,” Shtevi said. “While we in Israel are trying to get 50% more since we have such a small amount of land.”
(This article is reprinted with permission by the Media Line – the Mideast News Source).
More on olive oil on Green Prophet:
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The United Nations Help Syria Squeeze Out More Olive Oil
Palestinian Fair Trade Olive Oil
(Above image of olive trees in Greece via byrdiegyrl)