In Spain, Exports Grow While Consumption Falls

After drought and disease clouded export forecasts, the Spanish government is optimistic that they are in an upswing. The same is not true for consumption though as research shows Spaniards are perpetually using less olive oil.

Aug. 22, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

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Two sep­a­rate reports out of Spain this month show that while olive oil exports have slightly increased over the first eight months of the 2017/18 har­vest sea­son, domes­tic con­sump­tion is lower than it was half a decade ago.

Traditional mar­kets — mainly Spain and Italy — are los­ing pop­u­la­tion, chang­ing their eat­ing habits and con­sumers do not value olive oil suf­fi­ciently.- Francisco Rionda, Deoleo

New fig­ures released by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food show that export turnover exceeded €2 bil­lion ($2.28 bil­lion) between October 2017 and May 2018.

This total is down from pre­vi­ous years, but an improve­ment from what many in the indus­try expected for this past har­vest sea­son.

In recent months the dif­fer­ence in the monthly exits of exports has been reduced com­pared to the pre­vi­ous cam­paigns,” a spokesper­son for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food told Olive Oil Times. A clear upward trend is observed from the month of February, with a peak in May of 80,053 tons, which explains the growth of exports in this cam­paign.”

The most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor behind the rebound came from record-set­ting olive pomace oil exports, which broke the pre­vi­ous record set last year, and reached a turnover of €203 mil­lion ($235 mil­lion). Spain exports 65 per­cent of the olive pomace oil it pro­duces, com­pared with 23 per­cent of other types of olive oils.

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The Spanish olive pomace oil sec­tor is the world leader in pro­duc­tion and export,” the spokesper­son said. The data from October 2017 to May 2018, show an improve­ment in vol­ume and exported turnover, com­pared to the same period of the pre­vi­ous cam­paign and the mea­sure of the pre­vi­ous four.”

Significantly, the vol­ume of olive pomace oil exported to other European Union coun­tries also increased. This comes at a time when other types of Spanish olive oil exports to EU coun­tries are decreas­ing.

This past har­vest sea­son, Italy alone imported 42 per­cent less olive oil than it did last year. Exports have also decreased to the United States and Japan by 24 per­cent and eight per­cent, respec­tively.

In this cam­paign, the high pro­duc­tion of olive oil, both world­wide and by our com­mu­nity part­ners […] has reduced their sup­ply needs in the first months of the cam­paign,” the spokesper­son said.

However, China (+18 per­cent), Brazil (+6 per­cent) and Australia (+5 per­cent) have all increased their imports of Spanish oil more than was pre­vi­ously expected. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food expects this trend to con­tinue as other coun­tries’ olive oil stocks run low and they are able to export less.

“[Spain] has the high­est avail­abil­ity for export and is the main sup­plier of inter­na­tional mar­kets,” the spokesper­son said. Therefore, it is fore­see­able that in the com­ing months the growth of exports will con­tinue.”

But while Spanish olive oil exports are fore­casted to grow, domes­tic olive oil con­sump­tion has been decreas­ing for the past half-decade. According to research car­ried out by Deoleo and the Sondea Institute, Spaniards are con­sum­ing about 20 per­cent less olive oil than they did six years ago.

During the 2011/12 har­vest sea­son, Spaniards con­sumed 574,000 tonnes of olive oil. This fig­ure has since fallen to 470,000 tonnes, which is the pro­vi­sional fig­ure for the 2017/18 har­vest sea­son.

Since 2012 the con­sump­tion of olive oil per capita in Spain has fallen,” Francisco Rionda, the direc­tor of mar­ket­ing at Deoleo, said. This is a very dan­ger­ous trend because of the impor­tance of [con­sump­tion to] the sec­tor for a pro­duc­ing coun­try like Spain and because it puts the Mediterranean diet at risk.”

Rionda told Olive Oil Times that sev­eral fac­tors have con­tributed to the decrease in olive oil con­sump­tion in Spain and that other mar­kets are shrink­ing for the same rea­sons.

Traditional mar­kets — mainly Spain and Italy — are los­ing pop­u­la­tion, chang­ing their eat­ing habits and con­sumers do not value olive oil suf­fi­ciently,” Rionda said. They con­tinue buy­ing it mainly for price and replac­ing it with other [edi­ble oils].”

This same lack of appre­ci­a­tion also occurs in inter­na­tional mar­kets where con­sump­tion is fairly flat, with­out growth,” he added.

Due to the cur­rent demo­graph­ics in Europe, North America, and even China, pop­u­la­tion decreases over the com­ing decades are inevitable. Without more peo­ple to drive up demand, Rionda acknowl­edges that it will fall on pro­duc­ers to bet­ter edu­cate con­sumers about why they should not be replac­ing olive oil with other edi­ble oils in spite of the price dif­fer­ence.

The con­sumer through­out the world should value the prod­uct more and because of that we should value the indus­try more,” he said. The con­sumer mis­trusts the qual­ity and is used to buy­ing pro­mo­tions, but it is not informed. There is no invest­ment in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. There is no inno­va­tion.”

For Rionda, some of this falls on the shoul­ders of a younger gen­er­a­tion of pro­duc­ers and chefs. He is more con­cerned that they are not using olive oil in the same ways pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions have.

The con­sump­tion of olive oil will con­tinue to fall,” Rionda warned. If the new gen­er­a­tions of chefs do not incor­po­rate it into their habits as is already hap­pen­ing, the loss of con­sump­tion is immi­nent.





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  1. Carles says:

    Sad, but true! Olive oil con­sump­tion has been reduced over the last years in Spain. Part of that is due to the high prices that we have seen over the last years, caused by the draught and cli­mate change that is going on, and the sig­nif­i­cant and pro­gres­sive impov­er­ish­ment that has affected Spanish fam­i­lies since the last cri­sis. While the rest of the world is dis­cov­er­ing the many advan­tages of the most ben­e­fi­cial fat for human con­sump­tion, Spain is step­ping back, chang­ing its habits, and uncon­sciously harm­ing its health. There may be a change this year, since olive oil prices have col­lapsed because the pro­duc­tion of olives has sub­stan­tially increased. The fact that Spain ends up export­ing most its trea­sures (olive oil, excel­lent wine, acord-fed Iberian ham, and many more) while their domes­tic con­sump­tion falls and its cit­i­zens find it dif­fi­cult to ben­e­fit from them, shows that Spain has a sick econ­omy.

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