Production on Crete

Average oil production on Crete, which is increasing at an average rate of 3% per year, between 1994-1998 was around 140,000 tons per year (fig. 1) while today the figure is in excess of 150,000 tons per year with an ongoing upward trend. The fluctuation in production from year to year on Crete, just as in all countries, was major up until 10 years ago. Lately however it has reduced visibly and has stabilized significantly.

This was achieved due to the diligent activities of producers and in particular the introduction of irrigation which has been extended recently to cover 30-35% of olive plantations on the island.

Each olive tree, depending on its size and the year, can produce between 1 and 150 kilos of oil per year.

However, well tended fruiting trees usually give between 8-10 kilos of oil per year.

The fruit yield in terms of oil depends on the variety, the percentage of fruiting which the trees have and on the ripeness of the fruit when it is harvested. Thus one kilo of oil can be produced from 3-7 kilos of olives.

The Tree's Vegetative Cycle

The olive tree begins to produce fruit from the third year following planting. However, significant production starts after 6 to 7 years. If suitable conditions exist for the tree it can grow greatly reaching enormous dimensions. There are trees whose leaf cover extends to 10 meters in height and diameter and others who trunk diameter exceeds ten meters.

However for practical and economical reasons the trees in productive olive plantations are pruned back to smaller sizes depending on the fertility and water capacity of the soil.

The olive tree blooms early in spring and when conditions permit it is covered with millions of white-green blossoms which form small bunches. However, from every 100 blossoms only 1-5 will set fruit during May and June.

Oil Formation

From the end of the summer onwards the olive tree begins to patiently produce the golden yellow oil in its numerous green-blue leaves which thereinafter it sends to its numerous small fruits to be stored.

This process of producing golden green oil continues all autumn long and goes on late into winter at which time the fruits ripen and begin to be harvested.

The abundant light from Crete's brilliant sun on the sunny days of autumn and winter on the island is the main material for forming the valuable virgin oil which for thousands of years has fed the gods, lords and ordinary people of this island.