A Greek exporter of pomegranate oil says that he cannot make enough product to satisfy the current world demand for the oil of this fruit, which features in the mythology and traditions of several cultures.
Stefanos Kassidis recently told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) that the nation of France pays him one euro per 1 milliliter of oil extracted from his pomegranate seeds.
The pomegranate is known in medicine for its properties of fighting cancer, protecting heart vessels, and reviving skin cells, which is why the oil extracted from its seeds is now used in a wide range of medical and skin care products.
Kassidis, whose company is northwest of Thessaloniki in the town of Ditiko, cultivates pomegranates for their flesh and juice as well.
He claims that pomegranate seed oil “is drinkable, contains vitamin C that protects the heart and arteries, fights cancer, and has the ability to help rejuvenate cells.” At a basic level, Kassidis says, the substance helps the body’s immunity system fight diseases.
“Essentially, the oil extracted from the seed is the ‘gold’ part of the fruit,” he explains, adding that “the most potent part of it – is a foundational, raw material in the production of cancer-fighting medicines and beauty products.”
HKassidis’ company, which cultivates approximately 1,200 hectares of trees producing the ruby red fruit, has a workforce of 90 people and began operation during dark days of the economic crisis.
Now, he says, it exports 95 percent of its production, which includes the fruit itself and its juice (which can also be frozen), as well as marmalade, balsamic vinegar, sauces and the oil extract. The latter is exported entirely to France. Kassidis’ company exports the fruit and juice to Europe, Russia, the Far East, Israel and Jordan.
“But the oil extract is only exported to France, and it’s not enough,” he notes ruefully, as “you need 1,000 tons of pomegranates to produce 400 kilos of oil. It’s precious, that’s why even 1 milliliter costs one euro.”
According to Kassidis, the popularity of his brand of oil extract rests on its careful preparation, particularly in how the rind is carefully pared away from the fruit.
“We are global pioneers, because in our industry we have vertical production in pomegranates and produce large quantities. We are the only ones on Greek and European level to produce oil in industrialized form,” he adds proudly.
But since pomegranates cannot grow in cold climates, Kassidis generously encourages other Greek farmers to try cultivating this ancient fruit, saying the trees are actually fairly easy to take care of.
As production demands rise, Greece has a great opportunity to claim part of this important market, especially since pomegranates have always featured largely both in ancient Greek mythology and in popular tradition.