Ćazim Alković helped growers and producers in the small Balkan state earn one Gold and two Silver Awards, the first in the country's history.
Montenegrin producers enjoyed a record year at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, earning three awards from four entries.
It was the first time producers from the small Balkan state, situated on the Adriatic coast south of Croatia, had been awarded at the world’s largest olive oil quality competition and only the second time a Montenegrin producer had entered since 2014.
This is a historic moment because, in this way, we have joined the ranks of advanced countries that care about the quality of olive oil.
Stevo Davidović, an olive grower and oil producer from Buljarica, located in Budva on the southwestern coastline, earned a Gold Award for a medium blend.
He also helped produce Barska Uljara’s delicate Žutica, which earned a Silver Award. Veselin Vulićević from nearby Bar also earned a Silver Award for his medium Bjelica.See Also:Celebrating the Fruit of An Ancient Tree in Montenegro
After eight years without entering the NYIOOC, this year’s success comes after Ćazim Alković, president of the Bar Olive Growers Association, helped organize producers. He also convinced local governments and organizations to support producers in their efforts to send Montenegrin extra virgin olive oil to New York.
Alković told Olive Oil Times that this year presented the perfect opportunity to send Montenegrin oils after a favorable harvest.
Following advice from and the example of olive growers from the southern Croatian region of Dalmatia, Ćazim started talking to growers from the entire Montenegrin coast.
Alković also helped form the first Montenegrin sensory analysis panel and wrote letters to the leaders of local municipalities, explaining the importance of participating in the 2022 NYIOOC.
The municipalities of Bar, Budva, Kotor, Podgorica (the Montenegrin capital) and Tuzi responded to the letter, offering financial support to cover the costs of testing and shipping producers’ extra virgin olive oils to New York.
“We are grateful for the support and understanding of the importance of participating in such important competitions because the achieved success brings multiple benefits to Montenegro,” Alković said.
He added that they organized a local competition to choose the best oils before sending the samples to New York.
Organized by the Bar Olive Growers’ Association, the biotechnical faculty performed a free chemical analysis of the samples, and the first-ever Montenegrin sensory assessment panel tasted and graded the oils.
Alković said he was delighted that the NYIOOC’s expert panel of judges reached similar conclusions to those of the newly-formed Montenegrin panel.
“The ratings of our panel and the NYIOOC jury match in large percentages,” he said. The extra virgin olive oils of Davidović and Vulićević were the highest-rated in the internal Montenegrin competition.
“This is how confidence in the credibility of our evaluations is achieved,” Alković said, adding that the awards in New York were a point of pride for the growers and the rest of Montenegro.
“One Gold and two Silver Awards are a great success for little Montenegro, and this is a historic moment because, in this way, we have joined the ranks of advanced countries that care about the quality of olive oil,” Alković said.
“Additionally, the awards are also a great tourist promotion for Montenegro,” he added.
The three Montenegrin oils have now been added to the Official Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils, which has been viewed more than one million times since the beginning of April, according to competition officials.
The results also were followed on social media by importers, distributors, caters, chefs, journalists and consumers.
However, Alković said that now was not the time for Montenegrin growers and producers to rest on their laurels. He expects the inauguration of the new Stari Bar olive mill, which will also include a warehouse to properly label and store oils and seminar rooms for educational lectures, will bring future success to the country.
“This year’s abundant flowering promises a good harvest and gives hope that there will be even more top-quality oil next year,” he said. “With the support of municipalities and the state, there will be even more awards at international competitions.”