`Italy Overtook Spain as Largest Olive Oil Supplier to U.S., Data Shows - Olive Oil Times

Italy Overtook Spain as Largest Olive Oil Supplier to U.S., Data Shows

May. 28, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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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.- Rafael Pico Lapuente, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Asoliva

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.

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Olive oil shipped from Italy, Spain and Tunisia rep­re­sent 77.3 per­cent of all U.S. olive oil imports.

One of the main rea­sons experts see behind the reduc­tion in Spanish exports is the dam­age caused by the U.S. tar­iffs imposed back in October 2019 and tem­porar­ily sus­pended last March.

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.”





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