Greece's worst fires in living memory have destroyed up to 10% of Kalamata's famous olive trees, threatening to push oil prices even higher next year.

"Between 5% and 10% of the Kalamata trees were either burnt or damaged so won't yield fruit," said Henry Amar, MD of RH Amar.

"There shouldn't be any change in olive prices this year, but I would expect wholesale prices to rise by a few percentage points in the new year."

Importers predicted prices would rise sharply in 2008 for speciality olive oils from the fire-ravaged Peloponnese region of southern Greece and for Italian speciality oils following drought damage.

The predictions came as commodity oils importers were bracing themselves for price rises over the next three months as a result of a shortage of stocks from last season.

Walter Zanré, MD of Filippo Berio UK, warned that prices could rise by as much as 20% - to £2,500 per tonne for extra virgin.

"We're going to have a difficult year until January," he said. "We're seeing a very firm market for oil for the remainder of the year, but there shouldn't be any impact on shelf prices - it's just a blip."

By the New Year, bumper olive crops in other Mediterranean countries were expected to compensate for some of the losses and keep commodity olive and oil prices close to historical averages, though the future was less certain for speciality oils, admitted importers.

"The prospects are for a very good crop across the Med, because of good growing conditions, and that should more than compensate for any shortages in any other areas," Zanré said.

The autumn olive harvest is set to be earlier than usual this year, in line with many other crops across Europe. Greek and Italian olives will be collected from mid-October, and Spanish three weeks later.