Spain has doubled its olive oil exports in the last decade and now sends 60 percent of its production abroad, increasingly pre-packaged rather than in bulk.
It has also overtaken Italy as the biggest olive oil supplier in new markets, last year exporting 200,000 tons beyond Europe. Compared to 2009, exports rose by a third in both the U.S. — now Spain’s main non-EU olive oil buyer — to 65,969 tons, and Australia, to 24,671 tons.
The biggest export growth was in China, up 78 percent to 9,461 tons, and India, up 76 percent to 2,887 tons.
The figures were released this week by Spain’s Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español, a non-profit promotional organization representing all of Spain’s olive oil sector.
Jointly with other organizations — ICEX, ASOLIVA, EXTENDA and IPEX — the Interprofessional will again this year draw on a budget of €1.6 million ($2.2m) to promote Spanish olive oil in strategic markets. Its president, Pedro Barato, said it was significant not only that Spain was increasing exports every year, but that growth had been achieved in 2010 “despite the global financial crisis.”
Find the world's best olive oils near you.
The Interprofessional was particularly pleased with the result of its campaigns in China, which despite not having a tradition of olive oil consumption, is now Spain’s fifth biggest olive oil customer. “The figures for the first eight months of 2011 are even more spectacular, with sales growth of 125 percent,” it said in a statement.
Interprofessional Director Teresa Pérez said future campaigns would include more online and social network promotions and harness the prestige of local identities, such as prominent chefs and medical experts.
Increasing its exports is crucial for Spain, which is suffering a prolonged olive oil pricing crisis and stagnant, if not slightly falling, consumption.
According to International Olive Council forecasts, Spain’s 2010/11production will stand at 1.37 million tons – 45 percent of world production. Meanwhile, for the twelve months to this August, household consumption of olive oil continued its downward tendency, falling 2 percent on last year, according to figures from Spain’s Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM).