`In Italy, Spanish Olive Oil Prices Too Good to Pass Up


In Italy, Spanish Olive Oil Prices Too Good to Pass Up

Sep. 28, 2010
Daniel Williams

Recent News

The low price of Span­ish olive oil has resulted in rival pro­ducer Italy buy­ing a lot more of it lately. Dur­ing the first five months of 2010, Span­ish exports to its trans-alpine rival have jumped some 19% in value and 16% in vol­ume, reach­ing some 160,000 tons accord­ing to fig­ures from the Ital­ian National Insti­tute of Sta­tis­tics (ISTAT)- an orga­ni­za­tion whose net­work of regional offices is respon­si­ble for com­pil­ing national infor­ma­tion which is then pub­lished from its head­quar­ters in Rome.

Italy imported 240,000 tons of Span­ish olive oil through May of this year, total­ing 474 mil­lion euros. This is a sig­nif­i­cant increase from the 400 mil­lion euro import expen­di­ture in 2009 and one that can be attrib­uted to Spain’s incom­pa­ra­bly cheap prod­uct in the midst of a world­wide pric­ing cri­sis. Of the total olive oil imported by Italy, two-thirds are from Spain.

ISTAT pre­dicts Ital­ian imports of Span­ish olive oil will grow some 41.5% in vol­ume and 50% in value.

Other export­ing coun­tries like Greece and Tunisia are not doing as well with their exports to Italy. In the first 5 months of 2010, Greek olive oil exports to Italy have fallen some 18% while Tunisian sales have dropped by 30%.

But Turkey is the biggest loser in the Ital­ian olive oil mar­ket, strug­gling with a stag­ger­ing 70% reduc­tion in busi­ness vol­ume. France and Por­tu­gal also have lost ground in sales to Italy, while up and com­ing pro­ducer Aus­tralia has man­aged a gain.


Of the spe­cific grades, Ital­ian imports of vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil have jumped 23% in vol­ume, but it is the impor­ta­tion of olive pomace oil, oil extracted via the use of chem­i­cal sol­vents from the olive pomace or left­overs, which have risen most sig­nif­i­cantly. Olive pomace oil imports by Italy have jumped 54% com­pared to the first few months of 2009.

This increase in imports of lower qual­ity oil to Italy speaks to larger mar­ket trends which show that price, rather than qual­ity appears to be the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor dom­i­nat­ing the sale of olive oil at present. As prices have reached all-time lows and more peo­ple have been afforded access to olive oil of all grades, the cheap­est prod­uct seems to be the one win­ning out.

Spain, the world’s largest pro­ducer, still boasts the most afford­able olive oils, but this has come at a price as the world pric­ing cri­sis has given rise to a num­ber of fraud cases includ­ing the adul­ter­ation of olive oils and var­i­ous mis­la­bel­ing schemes while Span­ish olive farm­ers still strug­gle to make a liv­ing. Accord­ing to a yearly review by the Foun­da­tion of Rural Stud­ies, 24% of Span­ish farm­ers grow­ing olives for olive oil pro­duc­tion saw their incomes fall dur­ing 2009.

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