Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Liquid Gold Target By Criminals

Nicholas Zalewski
Olive Oil in a glass container next to olives. Source: Greek City Times

While consumers in the European Union’s periphery have had to deal with increasing food prices, particularly Southern EU member states will feel the pain when purchasing one item in particular, Olive Oil. While energy prices have increased, this is only one factor and does not completely explain the extreme increase in Olive Oil prices.  Heatwaves and droughts have decimated the production of olives, significantly decreasing the quantity of olive oil that can be produced. This has led to nations to start importing olive oil from outside the European Union.  This has led criminals to steal olive oil due to its selling price constantly increasing. While films have repeatedly depicted jewelry heists, olive oil has started to be stolen. Despite not being as costly as Gold, criminals have an increasing incentive to attempt to steal it.

Weather Woes

Poor climate conditions this year have caused a sharp decline in the production of olive oil. In Spain, olive oil production fell 50 percent. It was originally estimated in August 2022 that olive oil production for the 2022-23 season would decrease by only 27 percent in Spain, yet this prediction was drastically off. In Greece, production fell 33 percent. In Italy, only 208 tons of oil were produced, 37 percent less from the previous year. This season is the lowest production of olive oil since 2016 and 2017. As these three nations are the top producers of olive oil, poor harvests mean a significant drop in olive oil available to consumers. Spain exports 70 percent of its olive oil which will make it even harder for Spaniards to buy olive oil at reasonable prices. It is already expected that droughts will continue into next year meaning olive oil prices will be no matter after the next harvest.

Other nations such as Morocco, Syria, and Turkey have banned export of olive oil to protect their consumers but as a member of the single market in the European Union, Spain, Greece, and Italy do not have this option. Compared to Europe, prices in Morocco are far worse considering how much the salaries are in Morocco. Currently Olive oil costs between 11-14 euros in Morocco while the average monthly salary is 360 euros after taxes have been deducted.

Olive Oil Prices have surged dramatically in 2022 and 2023. Source: Bloomberg

Criminal Heists

In Spain, $500,000 worth of olive oil was stolen the first week of September from an oil mill. People near the mill heard nothing at the time of the heist. The robbers pulled it off by using two large trucks to steal the olive oil. The robbers made off with around 50,000 liters of olive oil.  

In Greece, 37 tons of olive oil were stolen. The value of the oil stolen is thought to be 370,000 euros. The oil was stolen over several days from the storage area of an olive oil cooperative, made up of 200 producers. Some producers think it was an inside job and the producers have hired legal representation. The producers do not believe that the oil was stolen over the weekend but instead was sold off by the cooperative without their knowledge. Also in Greece, Olive oil has been stolen numerous times on the island of Crete. In Greece it is estimated that the price may increase to as much as 12-15 euros a liter in the winter.  

Example of a Mediterranean diet in a picturesque setting. Source: Food Navigator

Mediterranean Diet

For southern European Union member states, the increasing price of olive oil hits them particularly hard due to its importance in their cuisine. Some researchers support the idea that this diet helps people live longer. In addition, maintaining a mediterranean diet can help improve overall quality of life and reduce developing major chronic diseases. As research indicates, olive oil is not the only important aspect of the diet but its only one part. Simultaneously, consuming olive oil as the main source of fat in a person’s diet is believed to help with type 2 diabetes, peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation, and breast cancer. This is contributed to the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols found in extra-virgin olive oil. Despite these health benefits, it will be harder for southern Europeans to continue to incorporate extra-virgin olive oil in their diets.


Besides inflation in general due to the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, poor harvests as a result of bad climate conditions have caused the price of olive oil to skyrocket. With the increasing price of olive oil, criminals have a motive to pull off heists as the potential pay out only continues to increase. Southern EU member states will have to hope for better weather conditions next year to lead to a decrease in the price of olive oil. Nations such as Morocco, Syria, and Turkey are understandably trying to help their own citizens by banning export of olive oil, yet hurts consumers in southern EU member states who cannot do the same.

Please Read The Following For More Information:

Dawson, Daniel. “Morocco Bans Olive Oil Exports in Bid to Control Rising Prices”. Olive Oil Times 11 October 2023.

Syme, Pete. “Thieves reportedly stole $500,000 of olive oil after drought boosted prices, turning it into ‘liquid gold”. Business Insider. 6 September 2023
Kokkinidis, Tasos. “Tons of Olive Oil Stolen in Greece as Price of ‘Liquid Gold’ Skyrockets”. Greek Reporter. 5 October 2023

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Let’s Tune In To Th…

by Nicholas Zalewski time to read: 4 min