Portugal's Rising Exports Fuel Demand for Imports

Researchers found that most positions are taken in the olive oil market of Portugal, but there is always room for new players.

Feb. 7, 2018
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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Mar­ket research from the Office of Eco­nomic and Com­mer­cial Affairs of the Greek Embassy in Lis­bon assessed the poten­tial of Portugal’s olive oil sec­tor and iden­ti­fied its tra­di­tional stake­hold­ers. It was found that ris­ing demand for exports fuels demands for imports, but the coun­try is still uncharted ter­ri­tory for many for­eign pro­duc­ers.

The researchers noted that Por­tu­gal is self-suf­fi­cient in olive oil and ranks fourth in annual con­sump­tion with 7.8 liters per per­son, fol­low­ing Greece, Spain, and Italy.
See more: The Best Olive Oils from Por­tu­gal
The annual pro­duc­tion amounts to around 70,000 tons, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the data of the last decade. The har­vest of 2017 was expected to top at 100,000 tons, com­pared to 69,000 tons in 2016.

For the 2017 – 18 sea­son, a decline is pro­jected with the har­vest pos­si­bly reach­ing a total of 78,000 tons of olive oil. The regions of Baixo and Alen­tejo in the south account for 70 to 80 per­cent of the total pro­duc­tion of the country’s olive oil, where the mild cli­mate and high pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els allow for olive tree cul­ti­va­tion on 350,000 hectares of land.

Sell­ing prices of extra vir­gin and vir­gin olive oil in Por­tu­gal went up in 2017 by 18 per­cent and 15.6 per­cent respec­tively, com­pared to 2016; extra vir­gin was sell­ing for €3.84 ($4.76) per kilo and vir­gin olive oil for €3.60 ($4.46) per kilo, accord­ing to the National Olive Oil Asso­ci­a­tion Casa do Azeite’.


Despite that Por­tu­gal cov­ers its inter­nal con­sump­tion, the demand for exports stip­u­lates that some olive oil needs to be imported and then exported as domes­tic oil. A buy low – sell high’ approach is used in this case, mean­ing that olive oil is bought from lower-cost coun­tries like Tunisia and Morocco to be then exported to other coun­tries for a higher value. In 2015 for exam­ple, exports decreased by 6 per­cent com­pared to 2014, but their total worth went up by 17 per­cent due to the 25 per­cent rise in prices.

For the 2016 – 17 sea­son, domes­tic con­sump­tion was expected to absorb 70,000 tons of the total yield of 100,000 tons, while exports were cal­cu­lated at around 130,000 tons. There­fore, a quan­tity of 100,000 tons of olive oil should be imported to cover the demand for exports.

© Olive Oil Times | Data source: Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil

Spain is by far Portugal’s biggest sup­plier, pro­vid­ing more than 98 per­cent of the imported olive oil. The value of the imports from Spain in 2016 came to €275.6 mil­lion ($343.47 mil­lion), with other coun­tries like Brazil, Morocco, and Chile, con­tribut­ing to the €279.6 mil­lion ($348.45 mil­lion) of imports alto­gether.

As far as exports are con­cerned, they added up to approx­i­mately €411 mil­lion ($512 mil­lion) in 2016. Spain and Brazil were the main receivers of Por­tuguese olive oil, each account­ing for about 34 per­cent of the value of exports. Other importers were Italy with 15.3 per­cent, Angola with 3.9 per­cent, and France with 3 per­cent of the value of exported Por­tuguese olive oil.

Accord­ing to the research, Greek olive oil is not widely known in Por­tu­gal, where con­sumers con­sider locally made oil to be of exquis­ite qual­ity. How­ever, a small quan­tity of 1.6 tons was sent from Greece to Por­tu­gal back in 2015, with an aver­age price of €7.17 ($8.94) per kilo.

Dur­ing the same time period, Greece imported 24 tons from Por­tu­gal with an aver­age price of €3.48 ($4.34) per kilo. The research sug­gested that Greece sells expen­sive olive oil to Por­tu­gal and buys cheaper olive oil, keep­ing in mind that this is not a safe con­clu­sion due to the lim­ited quan­ti­ties that were traded.

Finally, the Office of Eco­nomic and Com­mer­cial Affairs iden­ti­fied oppor­tu­ni­ties for Greek pro­duc­ers in the area of gourmet and organic olive oil, or pri­vate label olive oil. It also urged Greek pro­duc­ers and exporters to par­tic­i­pate in the con­test orga­nized dur­ing the OVIBEJA expo held in the city of Beja in April each year, to make their olive oil known to the Por­tuguese mar­ket.

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