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.

“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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