Africa / Middle East

Israel Increases Duty-free Import Quotas on Olive Oil

Spanish producers are closely watching as the Israeli Minister of Economy seeks to stabilize olive oil prices.

Tel Aviv
Aug. 1, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Tel Aviv

Recent News

Israel is in the process of open­ing up its olive oil mar­kets to the world, hav­ing raised its quota for duty-free olive oil imports.

Licensed importers will imme­di­ately be able to bring 1,700 tons duty-free into the coun­try, with this fig­ure set to rise to 2,000 tons by 2020.

The move comes as Eli Cohen, Israel’s Min­is­ter of Econ­omy and Indus­try, seeks to sta­bi­lize prices.

The new plan has brought cer­tainty to the mar­ket, and is a mes­sage to all the ele­ments in the olive oil indus­try: farm­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers, importers, retail­ers and con­sumers,” he told Cal­cal­ist, an Israeli trade jour­nal.

Israel began open­ing the mar­ket two years ago when the Min­istry of Finance sought to tem­porar­ily reduce prices for the Passover hol­i­day. This came in the form of quo­tas that have been con­tin­u­ously extended into what they are today.

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The stated goal of the quo­tas is to reduce con­sumer prices. Eight importers, which make up 90 per­cent of the olive oil retail indus­try, have received the duty-free allo­ca­tions. About 30 per­cent of the oil that is brought in will be bot­tled directly, while the rest will be sent to local mills to blend with Israeli oil.

Importers are already allowed to bring in 1,200 tons of olive oil from the Euro­pean Union and Jor­dan at reduced cus­toms rates due to a free trade agree­ment.

Since the news of the duty-free allo­ca­tions was made pub­lic, olive oil prices in Israel have decreased by an aver­age of 7.3 per­cent.

We are keep­ing track of the con­sumer prices of com­pa­nies that have been exempted from duty-free quo­tas,” Cohen said.

Last year, Israelis con­sumed 21,000 tons of olive oil, of which 5,000 tons were imported. Span­ish olive oil exporters, many of whom are keep­ing their eye the mar­ket, cer­tainly hope that both of these fig­ures go up.

Spain is the main exporter of olive oil to Israel, with €14.5 mil­lion ($16.9 mil­lion) sent in 2016,” José María Blasco, head of the Span­ish Eco­nomic and Com­mer­cial Office (ICEX) in Tel Aviv, said.

“[The impact will be] inter­est­ing and with some impact in Spain for exporters since they will be able to increase the amount of oil they send here.”

Accord­ing to ICEX’s Tel Aviv office, about one-third of the final price of Span­ish olive oil in Israel is due to tar­iffs. Blasco con­tends that this will be good both for Span­ish exporters of indi­vid­u­ally bot­tled oil as well as bulk oil, in part because Span­ish olive oil is kosher.

Many in Andalu­sia see the open­ing Israeli mar­ket as a new des­ti­na­tion for olives that would have oth­er­wise gone to the United States. Some are opti­mistic that these olives, which may have oth­er­wise rot­ted on tree branches due to the impend­ing Amer­i­can tar­iffs, have found a new des­ti­na­tion.

A spokesper­son for the Span­ish Asso­ci­a­tion of Exporters and Indus­tri­al­ists of Table Olives (ASEMA) acknowl­edged Israel as a good alter­na­tive but warned that a reprieve from tar­iffs there would not solve the prob­lem.

Obvi­ously, [Israel] is one of the des­ti­na­tions for the olives that oth­er­wise are going to stay on the trees as the demand low­ers,” the spokesper­son said. The com­pa­nies are going to try to com­pen­sate with other mar­kets, but that is unlikely to be a long-term strat­egy and will not fully com­pen­sate [for losses from U.S. tar­iffs].”

Blasco also warned about exag­ger­at­ing the relief that these new duty-free quo­tas will bring to the region. He said that oil from Turkey, Jor­dan and Tunisia would con­tinue to com­pete with Span­ish oil in Israel, although with vol­umes much lower than the Span­ish oil.”





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