`Trends in Organic Olive Oil Trade Now Being Tracked

N. America

Trends in Organic Olive Oil Trade Now Being Tracked

Jan. 21, 2014
By Julie Butler

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Organic olive oil accounted for at least a tenth of all vir­gin olive oil imported by the United States in 2012/13, accord­ing to the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC).

Buy­ers have gone from think­ing about it to doing some mar­ket tests.- Liz Tagami, Tagami Inter­na­tional

The IOC is now track­ing the organic cat­e­gory thanks to new inter­na­tional cus­toms codes which made this fea­si­ble as of last year, the IOC said.

From Octo­ber 2012 to Sep­tem­ber 2013, a total of 298,828 tons of olive oil was imported by the US, the world’s biggest importer of olive oil and table olives. About 64 per­cent of this was vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil — about 191,000 tons in total — of which a tenth was organic, thus just over 19,000 tons.

How­ever the IOC said its US trade data from the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau pro­vided details on organic olive oil only from Jan­u­ary last year, thus there are no fig­ures for this cat­e­gory for Octo­ber to Decem­ber 2012.

Oppor­tu­nity in organic food pro­duc­tion

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US-based inter­na­tional spe­cialty food bro­ker and con­sul­tant Liz Tagami said her com­pany, Tagami Inter­na­tional, is receiv­ing more calls for organic olive oil than five years ago.

Buy­ers have gone from think­ing about it to doing some mar­ket tests,” she said.

If you take Tagami Inter­na­tional as one data point, it appears inter­est is grow­ing as the num­ber of inquiries I receive ask­ing about the dif­fer­ence between organic and con­ven­tional has increased.

Peo­ple don’t real­ize how few chem­i­cal inputs there are in mod­ern olive cul­ti­va­tion — it is not like corn, wheat or soy. That dif­fer­ence, along with the higher price of organic has been a gov­er­nor on growth. That said, the use of organic olive oil in food pro­duc­tion where the entire for­mu­la­tion is organic is an oppor­tu­nity,” she said.

Cata­lan exporter finds Cana­dian mar­ket eas­ier

In Lleida, Cat­alo­nia, Emma Rovira, sales direc­tor of Molí dels Torms, said all the company’s olive oil is cer­ti­fied organic extra vir­gin. Sold under the Oli­catessen label, she said very lit­tle was exported to the US because it is a dif­fi­cult mar­ket with intense pres­sure on prices and the need for high vol­umes. She said the company’s biggest export mar­ket is Canada, fol­lowed by Japan, where they never dis­pute the ask­ing price but hag­gle over fac­tors such as qual­ity, taste and label­ing”, Bel­gium, Ger­many and Hol­land.

Also in Lleida, Ramon Bar­rull Becerra, pres­i­dent of the small La Granadella Coop­er­a­tive, said it is in only its sec­ond year of pro­duc­ing cer­ti­fied organic extra vir­gin olive oil, which will this year total only about 25 tons, just 5 per­cent of its total pro­duc­tion under the Degus­tus label. After sell­ing all the oil from the first year of organic pro­duc­tion, the coop­er­a­tive has quadru­pled its organic out­put this year and sells most of it to shops spe­cial­iz­ing in organic goods.

Bar­rull said the cost of organic pro­duc­tion is about a quar­ter higher than non-organic. One rea­son is the fer­til­izer costs more but deliv­ers lower pro­duc­tion capac­ity, he said.

Demand and risk in organic goods

A report last year by Spain’s Insti­tute of For­eign Trade (ICEX) said olive oil leads sales of organic oils in Ger­many, where the grow­ing demand for organic pro­duce is one of most strik­ing ten­den­cies in the Ger­man food mar­ket. Mean­while, accord­ing to a recent report on fraud in the food chain by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Com­mit­tee on the Envi­ron­ment, Pub­lic Health and Food Safety, olive oil, fish and organic foods are the prod­ucts most prone to such fraud.

Cur­rent cus­toms codes for organic olive oil

As of July 2013, the relevent organic codes in the har­mo­nized tar­iff sched­ule are:

- 1509102030: organic extra vir­gin olive oil in con­tainer under 18 kg

- 1509104030: organic extra vir­gin olive oil in con­tainer of 18 kg or more

- 1509102040: organic vir­gin olive oil in con­tainer under 18 kg

- 1509104040: organic vir­gin olive oil in con­tainer of 18 kg or more.

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