According to Spanish José Maria Blazquez, writer of World Olive Encyclopedia, olive growing started in Anatolia about 6,000 years ago. The world’s oldest-known olive oil production was discovered near the Aegean town of Urla, in the ancient city Clazomenae.
Olive is one of the most ancient, most symbolic products of these lands. If the bill that has been debated for days is passed in Parliament, then olives and olive growing will suffer a major blow. The bill in question has been prepared by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. Actually, you might wonder why the olive groves are a matter of interest to the Energy Ministry instead of the Ministry of Agriculture. Good question.
The issue is this: The bill introduces an application where small olive groves which cover less than 2.5 hectares will be considered as “ordinary land.” As a matter of fact, the average size of olive groves in Turkey is only 1 hectare. Because they will no longer be considered olive groves with this bill, they will easily be opened for mining and energy investments.
The key point is this: The olive growers call this bill the “death sentence” of olive groves. In the case that this bill is passed, thermic power plants will be constructed in olive groves, as well as permits granted to gold mining companies. The current situation is, unfortunately, the lobby of the energy and mining investors is so much more powerful than the olive producers. The government also seems to be siding with them.
The most support given to olive growers is the campaign that has attracted more than 65,000 signatures in a short time at change.org.
Olive growing in Turkey is the recent trend and about 500,000 families earn a living from it. We can say that directly, while 10 million people indirectly live by olives.
The number of olive trees has reached 167 million with a 70.8 percent increase between the years 2000 and 2013. Turkey’s share in global olive oil production has gone up to 5.8 percent from 2.7 percent. Turkey comes fourth in olive oil production after Spain, Italy and Greece.
As head of the Union of Turkish Agriculture Chambers Şemsi Bayraktar reminded us, the target of the Ministry of Agriculture is to become the second in the world.
If the Ministry of Energy’s bill is approved, then leave aside the second place in the world, our olive oil exports and our olive oil brands that are becoming known internationally will receive a blow.
At this time, the global demand for olive oil is continuously increasing because of the “Mediterranean diet” that is the inevitable part of healthy nutrition.
Even the Japanese, who did not know the taste of olive oil 20 years ago, have adopted it. Our olive oil exporters were able to enter the Japanese and Chinese markets with various brands in recent years.
On the other hand, as Bayraktar drawn attention to, one of the biggest spending items in foreign currency in Turkey is the vegetable oil imports that reach $3.6 billion. Olive oil is an important product in closing the gap in vegetable oil and keeping foreign currency inside the country.
Now, think about it: Could Spain, the world’s largest olive oil producer, sacrifice its endless olive groves for mining and energy investments?
A headline on a paper that focused on the “death sentence of the olive groves” for days summed up everything nicely: