Business

International Shortage of Olive Oil to Be Compensated by Spain

European Union olive oil producers fared poorly this year. Spain, the notable exception, is well poised to make up the difference in the export market.

Jan. 17, 2019
By Danielle Pacheco

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According to the latest esti­mates released by the European Commission, Spanish olive oil pro­duc­tion is pro­jected to reach 1.76 mil­lion tons in the 2018/19 season, up from 1.39 mil­lion tons the pre­ced­ing season.

Ironically, Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers have cli­mate change to thank for the suc­cess­ful har­vest season.- El País

Spain is expected to export 1.22 mil­lion tons this season, up almost 40 per­cent from the 2017/18 season. This is largely in response to the sharp decrease in pro­duc­tion in other coun­tries, such as Greece and Italy.

Italy is pro­jected to pro­duce just 226,000 tons of olive oil in the 2018/19 season, less than half the amount of the pre­ced­ing har­vest­ing season. Greece will fall by 35 per­cent to 248,000 tons and Portugal will drop almost 20 per­cent, down to 121,300 tons.

See more: Olive Oil Production

Overall, European Union olive oil pro­duc­tion num­bers are expected to remain fairly stable, at 2.375 mil­lion tons in 2018/19 com­pared with 2.410 mil­lion tons in 2017/18.

Spain’s pro­duc­tion will make up three-quar­ters of total EU olive oil pro­duc­tion in the 2018/19 season, and more than half of the world­wide pro­duc­tion.

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After a slight dip over the hol­i­day season, exports are expected to pick up again in January. Consumption in Spain is also increas­ing in the 2018/19 season after prices dropped back down below €3.00 ($3.42) per kilo­gram for extra virgin olive oil, and is expected to reach 578,700 tons.

Davide Granieri, pres­i­dent of the Italian olive oil con­sor­tium Unaprol, blamed this year’s dis­ap­point­ing crop on cli­mate change, fraud and the tariff-free influx of Tunisian olive oil into the EU market.

Italy is also still in the throes of an infes­ta­tion of Xylella fas­tidiosa, a plant pathogen that is rav­aging olive oil groves in the east­ern part of the coun­try. A few cases of Xylella fas­tidiosa were found in Spain as well last year.

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The major­ity of this year’s crop so far was har­vested in December, when Spain col­lected 679,000 tons of olive oil, the second-most pro­duc­tive month in the last decade. The province of Jaén is respon­si­ble for 40 per­cent of Spain’s olive oil pro­duc­tion, equat­ing to more than Greece and Italy com­bined.

Ironically, Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers have cli­mate change to thank for the suc­cess­ful har­vest season.

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Unseasonable cold snaps and heat waves lined up per­fectly to pro­duce a bumper crop of olives in many regions this year. Jaén suf­fered a worse-than-expected har­vest in November due to poor weather, but man­aged to com­pen­sate for it in December.

The cli­mate in January will deter­mine whether Spain reaches the esti­mated olive oil pro­duc­tion fig­ures for the 2018/19 season.

The most impor­tant olive oil pro­duc­ing coun­tries out­side of the EU are also seeing a drop in fig­ures. Tunisia and Turkey are expected to fall by around 50 per­cent and only Morocco will increase its pro­duc­tion, reach­ing about 50 per­cent more than the pre­vi­ous season.

According to the latest fig­ures from the International Olive Oil Council, world­wide olive oil pro­duc­tion for the 2018/19 season is expected to reach 3.451 mil­lion tons, down slightly from 3.653 mil­lion tons in the 2017/18 har­vest­ing season.