The Spanish consumers’ group OCU revealed that refined olive oil prices have increased 51 percent since May of 2014, jumping 20.7 percent since just May of this year. Meanwhile, extra virgin prices have surged, too, having risen 50.3 percent since October 2012, and 4.3 percent in the last month alone.
These results are based on a study of over 20 olive oil brands, many of which are sold at supermarkets throughout the country. The cause for the increase in prices is being blamed on low stocks and early speculation about next year’s harvest.
Last year’s production was very low, resulting in over 800,000 metric tons of olive oil, versus roughly 1.8 million the year before. The reduced supply is barely enough to cover demand, leaving stock lower than it has been since 2003.
But the OCU believes the rising prices could have more to do with speculation, causing prices to accelerate in the last month — just before the harvest — in anticipation of a possible drought during the year to come (a real concern given that rainfall in Andalusia’s olive oil-producing regions sits at 25 percent below average).
These elevated prices could return to lower levels with the imminent availability of new olive oil from the current harvest, followed more significantly in January, when this year’s production will be better known, and even more definitively come June.
Whatever the cause, higher prices will be passed to consumers, both domestically and internationally, as Spain exports two thirds of its olive oil.
Spaniards, who consider olive oil a fundamental part of their daily diet, will surely adjust their consumption. According to the OCU, in similar situations in the past, Spanish consumers have simply replaced olive oil with cheaper alternatives.