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Greek olive harvest hit as pandemic leads to labour shortage

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By Mark Armstrong with AFP
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Harvesting olives is traditionally labour intensive
Harvesting olives is traditionally labour intensive   -   Copyright  Adel Hana/Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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The coronavirus pandemic is having many unforeseen consequences and one of them is olive oil production.

Greece's "green gold" output is set to fall by at least a fifth in 2020 compared to 2019.

Most olive producers are family businesses but rely on migrant seasonal workers to harvest the crop.

This year because of closed borders they're having to call on extended family and local residents for help

"There are no workers to harvest the olives," explained olive producer Panagiotis Outsikas, "we can’t pick them all. We will do it on our own. We are four siblings."

But in many villages, the local people are far too old for what is in fact very hard work, and that means nowhere near as many olives will be picked as previous years.

One grower had to ask his sister and elderly mother for help to harvest his thousand trees.

"In previous years we had at least 100 to 120 foreign labourers that would come for work in our village," despaired Nikos Argyrakis, "this year no more than fifteen".

Greece is the fourth biggest olive oil producer in the world behind Spain, Italy and Tunisia.

Around 60% of the product is exported. But it's not just the supply side that's under pressure. The closed down restaurant sector means they're having to look for new markets as well.