Olive oil consumption and imports to the United States continue to grow, making the country one of the world’s most lucrative markets for olive oil sellers.
Estimates for the 2020/21 crop year show both figures falling slightly compared to the record highs set in 2019/20, but continuing to confirm the upward trend of the previous three decades.See Also: U.S. demand will help save our industry. But it will take a while.
The IOC predicts that the U.S. will consume 357,000 tons in the current crop year, the second-highest total on record. Imports are also set to fall slightly, dropping to 350,000 tons from 391,000 tons in 2019/20.
The 25 percent additional tariffs have affected olive oil produced and bottled in Spain. Our direct exports dropped by 80 percent.
However, the source of where these imports are coming from is beginning to change. The 2019/20 crop year, the last one for which data are available, showed that Italian olive oil and olive pomace oil exports to the U.S. exceeded Spanish shipments for the first time since 2014/15.
More specifically, IOC data show that Italy exported 119,736 tons in 2019/20, compared with the 112,406 tons of the previous season. Spanish exports to the U.S. dropped to 101,175 tons, about one-third less than the 153,386 tons of the previous crop year.
However, the strongest growth was shown by Tunisia, from which exports to the U.S. increased from 29,748 tons in 2018/19 to 85,905 tons the following crop year. The growth cemented Tunisia’s position as the third major olive oil exporter to the U.S.See Also: Trade News
Olive oil shipped from Italy, Spain and Tunisia represent 77.3 percent of all U.S. olive oil imports.
“The 25 percent additional tariffs have affected olive oil produced and bottled in Spain. Our direct exports dropped by 80 percent,” Rafael Pico Lapuente, executive director of the Association of the Spanish Olive Oil Industry and Exporters (Asoliva), told Olive Oil Times.
While the tariffs affected how the Spanish companies operated, according to Asoliva, overall sales did not decrease.
“These additional tariffs imposed by the United States have forced us to work with olive oil produced in other countries and thus avoid this disproportionate and unfair additional tariff,” Pico Lapuente said. “If we analyze exports from Spain to the United States, regardless of the origin of the goods, exports to the U.S. have not decreased.”
On the contrary, Pico Lapuente added that 2020 was a record year by Spanish exporters.
“The Covid-19 pandemic led to an increase in household olive oil consumption,” he said. “Consumers are well aware that olive oils are the healthiest oils, which led to an increase in international consumption.”
Furthermore, Asoliva expects Spanish exports to the U.S. and, in general, to continue increasing.
“Exporters want to continue exporting olive oils produced in Spain,” Pico Lapuente said. “During the last 45 years, we have made great promotional campaigns in the world and the U.S.
“On the other hand, Spain produces an average of 1.5 million tons of olive oils every year, and the second-largest producer in the world is Italy with 300,000 tons,” he added. “If someone wants to consume olive oil, they have to buy it from Spain because that is where quantity and quality are produced.”
While the U.S. tariffs played a role in changing the provenance of Spanish exports to the U.S., they also impacted Italian exports. Though, experts believe other factors should also be considered.
“The good showing of our products on the international market during the pandemic has deeper roots,” Anna Cane, president of the Italian Association of the Oil Industry (Assitol), told Olive Oil Times. “Domestic consumption was fueled by the strong limitations due to the sanitary emergency, not only in Italy but also throughout Europe and America.”
“To fight boredom and distress triggered by the pandemic, many entrusted themselves to the beneficial effects of cooking, also using greater quantities of olive oil,” she added.
Data from Assitol showed that exports from Italy to the rest of the European Union grew by 20 percent in 2020. Exports to the rest of the world similarly grew by 16.7 percent over the same period.
“Covid-19 changed the approach to nutrition,” Cane said. “Consumers favor all that is good for their health and their daily health programs almost naturally began including extra virgin olive oil.”
According to Assitol, the appeal of the Mediterranean diet has also fueled the popularity of olive oil. This should be sustained, Cane also noted, “with a wide communicational campaign capable of promoting the values of healthy nutrition connected to olive oil.”
“In the United States, the daily consumers of extra virgin olive oil are millennials,” she added. “And that is good news, those who consume this product in their youth will continue to consume it as adults, and that fuels the best hopes for the future.”