Italy and Turkey have lost ground to Spain, Morocco and Tunisia in the United States olive oil and pomace import market, which has grown 11 percent in half a decade to register a record 292,049 tons last crop year.
Italy remains by far the biggest supplier for the US market. Its 149,444 tons — almost all pre-bottled — accounted for 51 percent of total US imports last crop year (October to September) but that’s down from 59 percent five years ago.
According to the International Olive Council’s February market newsletter, the next biggest source is Spain, accounting for 23 percent — up from 18 percent in 2006/07 — and Morocco has toppled Tunisia to occupy third place. More than half of Spain’s and almost all of Morocco’s US exports are in bulk.
Morocco’s explosive growth was “fueled by its olive expansion plan and higher production,” the IOC said. The country has leaped from supplying less than one percent of US olive oil imports in 2006/07, with 2,002 tons, to 9.6 percent in 2010/11, with 28,156 tons.
Meanwhile US imports from Turkey have tumbled from 14,315 tons in 2006/07 to just 1,059 in 2010/11.
Virgin olive oil dominating
Of all the olive and olive pomace oil imported, 65 percent was virgin grade (of which 67 percent was bottled), 29 percent was olive oil and the rest was olive pomace oil (71 percent of which was in bulk). “There is a growing tendency to import virgin olive oil,” the IOC said.
It also reported that in the last 18 years bulk imports have enjoyed greater growth in US imports than those of packed product.
World olive oil and table olives market
Worldwide, imports in the first three months of the current crop year (October – December) are up 3.4 percent on the same period a year ago. Imports into China are up 33 percent, Russia 20 percent, Japan 9 percent, Brazil 4 percent and the US 1 percent. Conversely, imports into Australia fell 25 percent — with a particularly stark decline in December — and Canada 7 percent.
In the table olive market, imports into Brazil and Canada are up 24 and 12 percent on the same period last crop year but down 12 percent in the US, and eight percent each in Australia and Russia.
Compared with this time last year, the price for extra virgin olive oil in Spain is 9 percent lower (€1.82/kg) , 6 percent in Greece (€1.84/kg) and 23 percent in Italy (€2.35/kg). “Prices in Italy and Greece have not varied in the past two months. However, in Spain, they have recorded a slight upturn after hitting their lowest level in the last three crop years,” the IOC said.
It made no comment on why the price in Italy had slumped but it’s understood that one key factor is that Bari, in Puglia, is used as the reference point and prices in that region have slipped after a big increase in production.
The producer price for refined olive oil — currently €1.68/kg in Spain and €1.77 in Italy — is in both cases down 7 percent. “These prices are lying at the lowest level since the last three crop years,” the IOC said.
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