Italian Olive Oil Exports Doubled in Last 20 Years

Italian farmers’ association Coldiretti said an increasing appetite for the Mediterranean diet was fueling exports, but warned a new labeling program could lead to setbacks.
Oct. 1, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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With an expected har­vest of about 315,000 tons, Italy’s national sta­tis­tics agency (Istat) con­firmed the coun­try will once again be the world’s sec­ond-largest olive oil pro­ducer.

The coun­try sits far behind Spain, at an esti­mated 1.2 to 1.35 mil­lion tons, but will exceed the har­vests in Tunisia, with 250,000 tons, and Greece and Turkey, with 200,000 tons each.

In a press release, the Italian farm­ing asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti, rat­tled off the expected global olive oil pro­duc­tion fig­ures to high­light the grow­ing role of Italian olive oil exports. According to the asso­ci­a­tion, the value of Italian olive oil ship­ments abroad dou­bled in the past 20 years.

See Also: Olive Oil Trade News

Additionally, olive oil exports have accel­er­ated since the onset of the Covid-19 pan­demic. Coldiretti attrib­uted this is due to increas­ing demand for health­ier prod­ucts. In the first six months of 2021, Italian olive oil exports value grew five per­cent.

Based on data from Istat, Coldiretti said almost half of Italian olive oil exports are des­tined for other European Union coun­tries.

There, demand for the prod­uct has grown 98 per­cent in the last two decades. Germany has led the way, increas­ing its demand for Italian olive oil by 95 per­cent since 2001, more than France, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Still, exports to Asian coun­tries have almost tripled, with a growth of 162 per­cent in the same period.

When it comes to major part­ners, the United States remains by far the most impor­tant for Italy, with almost one-third of all olive oil exports des­tined for the U.S. Furthermore, the growth has been steady. Shipments across the Atlantic grew by 73 per­cent since 2000.

According to the International Olive Council (IOC), Italy replaced Spain as the largest olive oil exporter to the U.S. in the 2019/20 crop year.

However, this may be tem­po­rary as the sig­nif­i­cant drop in Spanish exports was largely attrib­uted to tar­iffs imposed by the U.S. con­cern­ing the Airbus-Boeing dis­pute, which have since been sus­pended.

Among the rea­sons for the con­tin­ued growth of Italian olive oil exports, though pro­duc­tion remains fairly con­stant, is ris­ing lev­els of olive oil con­sump­tion through­out the world.

In March, the IOC reported that from 1990/91 to 2018/19 global olive oil con­sump­tion increased 91 per­cent, from 1.66 mil­lion tons to more than three mil­lion tons.

Olive oil is wildly pop­u­lar within the European Union, which accounts for almost half of the global con­sump­tion. Consumption also con­tin­ues to rise in the United States and Turkey, which account for 12.4 and 5.4 per­cent of total con­sump­tion, respec­tively.

According to Coldiretti, the grow­ing global pop­u­lar­ity of the Mediterranean diet has par­tially led to the increased use of olive oil in house­hold kitchens. Still, warned the asso­ci­a­tion, olive oil exports could slow down as the result of mis­lead­ing front-of-pack food labels” on the inter­na­tional mar­kets.

Coldiretti has crit­i­cized Nutri-Score, the French-born food label­ing sys­tem, which rates extra vir­gin olive oil just as olive oil with a Yellow C” in a five-let­ter col­ored code which goes from the healthy Green A” to unhealthy Red E.”

Referring to Nutri-Score, Coldiretti pres­i­dent Ettore Prandini said the risk is to pro­mote junk food made out of sweet­en­ers instead of sugar and to demote healthy food, such as extra vir­gin olive oil, the Mediterranean diet’s flag­ship prod­uct.”

However, pro­po­nents of Nutri-Score argue recent study demon­strates that Nutri-Sore does not dis­suade con­sumers from pur­chas­ing extra vir­gin olive oil.





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