The Terraolivo international olive oil competition kicked off in Cyprus for the first time on Monday.

The competition had been held in Israel for the first 14 years of its existence, having first been held in 2010, but was moved across the Med this year due to the ongoing political situation there.

Instead, this year, the competition is being held at the Sandy Beach hotel near Larnaca, with olive oil producers from across the world sending samples of their extra virgin olive oil to be tested by expert judges.

In addition to the competition, a symposium on olive oil production will be held on Tuesday, providing attendees with a basic understanding of the journey from the olive grove to the final product.

The symposium will also include information on history, culture and science related to olive oil, as well as matters related to the culinary aspect of the oil.

Entry to the symposium costs €50, while those who wish to attend a further demonstration of olive oil tasting techniques at the end of the symposium can pay an extra €10.

Olive oil has for millennia been linked to Cyprus, with archaeological discoveries having proven that olive trees were cultivated on the island as far back as 4,000 years ago. An olive press which dates back to 1000 BC was also found in the Limassol area.

The government currently estimates that there are around three million olive trees in Cyprus, which cover around 130 square kilometres of land.

Those trees and the farmers who cultivate them produce between 7,000 and 12,000 tons of olive oil per year.

However, recent times have seen the price of olive oil skyrocket in Cyprus, with a 49 per cent increase being recorded in January compared to 12 months prior.

That increase was the fifth largest in the European Union, behind only Portugal, Greece, Spain and Estonia.

The increasing prices came after reduced rainfall and a mild winter saw global production cut in half in 2023, with similar weather conditions since meaning supply is less readily meeting demand.

Farmers’ union PEA chairman Kyriakos Kailas pointed to climate change as a cause of the price rises.

“Climate change and high temperatures have greatly impacted the issue of fruitlessness in all tree crops,” he said.

However, former agriculture spokesman George Aristidou had told the Cyprus Mail last year that not enough data has been gathered to draw such a conclusion.

We do not have enough data points to be absolutely certain on whether this is a result of climate change or not yet. Last year was a bad year, this year is expected to be a bad year, but the year before was a good year for olive oil,” he said.

“Olive oil production is down because of reduced rainfall and mild winters. In a lot of these places where they grow olives, they did not really have a proper winter last year.”

“However, to extrapolate a year or two years and to be certain that this is a consequence of climate change at this moment is something that we cannot yet do. Maybe in a few years if we begin to see a noticeable trend, we will be able to be more certain, but until then we cannot make sweeping statements,” he said.