Tons of olive oil were stolen from a warehouse in northern Greece as the price of the “liquid gold,” an essential part of culture and cuisine in the country, skyrockets.
The theft occurred in an olive oil farming cooperative in Polygyros, Halkidiki, where approximately two hundred local producers are registered.
Officials say that fifty-two tons of olive oil were stolen from the warehouse, with the damage exceeding 370,000 euros ($388,000).
The thieves emptied the tanks containing the olive oil gradually and over several days. On Tuesday morning officials from the cooperative reported the theft and alerted Greek police.
Thanasis Yovanoudas, a lawyer representing the olive oil producers, blamed the cooperative for the theft.
“Suddenly on Monday, the oil producers who went to get oil that they had left in custody in the tanks of the cooperative, discovered there was not a drop of oil in the tanks.
“The next day the cooperative reported that there had been a theft during the weekend, a position with which the olive producers do not agree. Little by little the oil was sold through the cooperative or otherwise,” he alleged.
“We think it was done through the cooperative, we just can’t say who did it,” he noted.
This is not the first time that thefts of large quantities of olive oil have been reported recently in Greece.
Argophilia reported recently that thefts of olive oil are happening in small villages of Crete. It says that approximately two hundred liters worth around two thousand euros have been stolen recently within twenty-four hours.
Thieves try to steal large quantities of olive oil to sell as their own given its high value.
The price of olive oil in Greece rises
The wholesale price of olive oil in Crete, one of the country’s biggest olive oil-producing regions, is currently around €8.40 ($9) per liter, which means its retail price would be around €12 to €15 during the winter, Myron Chiletzakis, vice president of the Heraklion Agricultural Cooperative (EASH) recently told major broadcaster OpenTV.
Also speaking to public broadcaster ERT, he argued that 80 percent of the country’s olive oil production is exported and that is also behind skyrocketing prices domestically. He complained that the Greek authorities did not foresee the drop in production, as Turkey did, which banned exports.
The rise in the price of olive oil is due to the decrease in production in all Mediterranean countries. It started in Spain, the world’s leading producer of olive oil.
Spain’s olive oil production in the recent season has slumped to around 610,000 tons—a drop of more than fifty percent compared to the usual 1.3 to 1.5 million tons, following a two-year drought and record heat.
“Adding to the complexity of the situation are concerns about reduced production in other major European olive oil-producing countries, including Italy and Greece, where drought conditions prevail,” Mintec’s oilseeds and vegetable oils analyst, Kyle Holland, told CNBC.
Greece and Italy are the second and third largest producers of olive oil, according to the International Olive Council, an intergovernmental organization made up of members that make up more than ninety-eight percent of olive production globally.