The quantity of the Cretan olives.
With 300.000 tons of olive oil per year Greece is the second largest olive producer country in the world.
Besides that, Greece is the biggest exporter of extra virgin olive oil in the world, which is the best quality olive oil you can get.
On Crete about 160.000 acres of land hold about 30 million trees that are older than 7 years. These are divided up into about 95.000 families. Or to put in another way, almost everybody on this island owns olive trees. This can vary from 1000 to only 4 or 5 trees.
It’s the most important part of the Cretan cultivation economy. Out of 360.000 acres of land for cultivation about 160.000 acres are for the growth of olive trees.
Over the past fifty years the production of olives has increased four times and over the last 15 years the quality has been improved. 90% of the oil is of extra virgin quality; the quality standard which indicates that the level of acid in the oil is less then 1%.
A cultivated olive tree gives its first fruit after 5 to 8 years. It can get up to 600 to 1000 years old.
In total there are 75 different types of olives. However, on Crete we distinguish three different types; the Koroneiki olive, the Throumpolia-chontrolia olive and the Tsounati olive.
The Koroneiki olive is the main type on the island. They are small olives that also grow when the circumstances are not perfect. You can find them until a height of 500 metres above sea level, which is important on Crete because of its hills and mountains.
The Throumpolia-chontrolia olive can be cultivated until a height of 700 metres above sea level. The oil that comes from this olive is milder than the oil from the Korneiki olive, on the condition that the olive is pressed immediately after it has been picked.
The Tsounati olive is well protected against temperature differences. This type mainly occurs in the region of Hania on the West side of the island, because the type of weather varies on that side.
How much does an olive tree actually yield? In average you can say that a well cultivated tree produces about 20 to 30 kilos of olives. With a current price of 2,50 to 3,50 per kilo, one tree yields about 100 euro.
Of course you still have to take the costs into consideration. Costs, that were made for fertilizing, irrigation, labour and the 12% that was charged by the olive factory for pressing the olives.
Altogether the words of Homerus can still be used today; in 88 BC he called the olive oil ‘the golden liquid’.