Kursat Agricultural Products Company is an experienced and recognized brand in offering healthy, fresh and quality olives and olive oils. It has a respectful success story which we listened from the mouth of Zeynep Kursat Alumur, an agricultural engineer and a high-level official at the company. Full text of the exclusive interview follows:
What is the story of Kursat brand?
Having roots in Crete Island, we are a family business dealing with olive farming and processing. Our forefathers have played a role in the spread of quality olive oils in Europe by producing and exporting.
Following their migration to Ayvalik from Cretein 1923, they decided to keep their business in the same field as farmers and producers and have become one of the farmers who produce the best olive oil in the region.
We have been carrying our tradition of our grandfathers for four generations. Since 1966 we have been selling our products under our name. First store of Kursat was opened in 1998 in Ayvalik and we started selling olives and olive oil in a special shop delicately. Two more shops were opened in Istanbul and Izmir in 2004. We have three shops in Ayvalik and online sales.
With an aim to keep our traditions going, we have been selling our products under our family name Kursat. Two years ago we decided to reflect our grandfather’s name in our products and launched an additional trademark as Eminali. We sell our both brand heavily in domestic market. We deliver some of the production to export markets upon demand.
What are the production techniques you apply?
We process olives only we harvested from the plantations in Ayvalik. All of the farms are bred from original virgin olive trees. Our farming is completely conforms to the eco-farming standards, having good farming practices and organic farming certificates. We focused on the production of the healthiest and the most nutritious products as either olive oil or tabletop olives.
Each year we start to harvest in October, mostly, and daily harvests are put to process at the same day for pressing or processing. Olive oil is made in continue presses, which is a special system that prevents olives from contact with air and water. Olives for consumption is fermented by natural sea salt up to 6 to 12 months period.
What are the product varieties and production capacities?
Capacity is determined by the amount of harvest each year. All our farms in Ayvalik are traditional farms. We have three kinds of olive oil.
Kursat brand oils have max. 0.5 % oleic acidity and processed from early harvests by cold press.
Eminali brand oils are made of October and January harvests and processed at 39 centigrade degrees having max. acidity of 0,8.
Flavored olive oil is made of using cold pressed oil by adding natural flavors of rosemary, basil and red cayenne pepper. We have also centaury variety.
Tabletop olives are made through natural fermentation process that takes months by using sea and lemon salt. In a typical season we produce 7 varieties of green and pink natural pickled olives.
Black olives are sold in two kinds, one is the seasonal saddled olive and the other is turning/shaking olive. This variety is made by settling them into the sea salt for 7 to 8 months. Both are made by natural fermentation. Saddled olive is matured in 40 days and sold seasonally between February and April.
What distinguishes Ayvalik olive oil from other regional oils?
About 2 million olive trees live in the province of Ayvalik. Natural plantations in Ayvalik were bred from the wild siblings known as delice (virgin) by the people who wanted to improve the productivity and durability of the olive trees for centuries. Thus, the traditional Ayvalık olive trees are more powerful, durable to climate changes, resistant to pests, diseases and physical conditions. They have higher rate of oil up to 24 %. Other characteristics such as their organoleptic structures, powerful chemical properties have made them the most important varieties for oil production. It has a unique organic structure that needs to be explored more deeply. They also have deep sense and essence of aromas of fresh green almond, fresh almond flower, fresh grass, green leaves, artichoke and green tomato. Tastes may changes and become more valuable depending on the time for harvest, the style of production and some other factors. Taste of Ayvalik olive oil may change during shelf life and the conditions of warehousing but it keeps its basic characteristics for many years.
We know that olive oil is basically a fruit juice. How frequently should it be consumed for health?
Every family has a habit to use olive oil for their healthy diets. Besides, it is the only oil that can be consumed in all kinds of food preparation processes, including the fresh consumptions, cooking on stoves, fries, grills and ovens. It is a indispensable part of a healthy nutrition diets.
Turkey ranks a good place in the production of olive oil in the world, however, it could not get its share in exports. What can be done in this regard?
First of all, we have to focus on quality production throughout the country to produce better oils in every part of the country. Every region has to emphasize on their peculiarity and the ways to transfer them to future generations. They have to try to improve their regional properties and sell them in attractive packages.
Of old, there were off and on years in the harvest of olives. On the on years, olive oil is mostly exported in bulk. If we would be successful to sell more in domestic market, then we will began to sell more of our quality olive oils to export markets under prestigious brands.
Keeping and maintaining the farms and increasing the number of olive trees in the country is important. Besides, the olive culture has to be spread out in all parts of the country. When we live and have enlivened our own culture of olives in the best way, then we will have special products and beautiful stories to sell them to the world.
You mentioned once about the initiative of UNESCO on Ayvalik olive oil. What is your position in this move and activities you carried on?
Last December we organized a workshop by the participations of academicians and the members of the national committee of Unesco on the candidacy of Ayvalik to the world cultural heritage list. In this meeting, criteria for the application are determined. I made a presentation in the meeting. Supporting any activities aiming to preserve the main essence of the province is all our job. Olive tree inventory is one of the most important cultural assets of the country. It is a real heritage and valuable gift having olive trees that have been serving to the humanity for more then six thousands years. Civilizations have emerged and expanded around this noble tree.
Especially in Turkey, who has the privilege of being the homeland of olive tree, it must be all of our responsibility to protect the heritage, to develop it more, to carry on studies to make it more famous in the world.
The report of the meeting have been completed and submitted to the office of Unesco World Heritage, Culture and Tourism Ministry.
In your opinion, what are the most advantageous regions for the exports of olive oil? What is to be done in this regard?
There is a growing interest in olive oil especially in the last decade in the Middle East, in China and Japan. It is said that there are some problems to export branded olive oil to Chinese market. They mostly prefer to buy in bulk and want to sell under their brands. About 1 % of the population consumes olive oil in China.
Japanese people consume about 55 thousand tons of olive oil annually. Turkey ranks third among the exporters of olive oil to this country, following Italy and Spain. The USA market accounts 39 % of total imports in the world. Brazil is an emerging market with its consumption of about 75 thousand tons, and they prefer natural pressed olive oil. Turkey competes with Greece for the third place after Spain and Italy in export of olive oil to these countries.
Turkey has a variety of olives and a powerful production and processing capacities. With intelligent plans and efforts we have to preserve our inventory and try to increase our production and exports.