The pace with which olive oil demand is rising in Japan is outstripping even that of China, according to the April newsletter of the International Olive council (IOC).

The IOC data shows that five months into the current olive oil season, imports are up a quarter on the same period in 2011/12 in Japan, 19 percent in China, 16 percent in Brazil, 12 percent in Russia, and 4 percent in both Australia and in the United States – by far the biggest market outside the European Union.

And after falling by 1 percent overall last season, demand in Canada has shot back with growth of 21 percent for October 2012–February 2013, compared to the same period a year ago.

Explosive growth in India

But it is the nascent olive oil market of India that has the most dizzying data. Imports last season exploded 74 percent on 2010/11, though to a total of just 9,400 tons. In comparison, imports grew 23 percent in Japan over the same period, to a total of 45,571 tons.

And for the first five months of this season, Indian imports are up 48 percent, though again with relatively small volumes.

India and Japan: different tastes

In special sections this month on trade with India and Japan, the IOC included figures showing that the Japanese market has evolved with a preference for virgin olive oil and the Indian market so far favors the grade called olive oil.

In 2011/12, two thirds of Japan’s imports were virgin, 28 percent olive oil, and 5 percent olive pomace oil, while nearly three quarters of India’s were classified as olive oil grade, 18 percent virgin and 9 percent pomace.

The IOC said it was worth recalling it began activities to promote olive oil consumption in Japan in 1991 and import trends suggested these had “a very significant impact.”

Its figures show both Japan and India get most of their olive oil from Spain and Italy. Among the sources of India’s imports, though with tiny volumes, China and non-producer countries including Sweden, Japan and Germany appear.

Grower prices in Europe

Ex-mill prices for extra virgin olive oil lie at €2.84/kg in Spain, representing 60 percent growth on a year ago and a return to the level of September 2006.

In Italy, they rose from €2.61/kg in the last week of November to €3.22/kg in the last week of April, making for 34 percent growth on the same period a season ago.

In Greece, prices were up 34 percent having moved from €2.04/kg to €2.46/kg between the last weeks of December and April. However, in recent weeks prices in Italy and Greece have flattened, the IOC said.

The difference between the price of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil is now about €0.32/kg in Spain and €0.40/kg in Italy.

Table olives

Table olive imports for October–February are up 18 percent in Canada, 14 percent in Australia, 10 percent each in Brazil and Russia, and unchanged in the U.S., compared to the same period last season.

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