Olive Oil Consumption in Italy, Greece Expected to Grow Amid Global Decline

Despite rising prices, lower production and the impacts of inflation, olive oil consumption in Italy and Greece is expected to rise, bucking the global trend.
Central Market, Athens
By Paolo DeAndreis
Mar. 2, 2023 00:50 UTC

Olive oil con­sump­tion in Italy and Greece — two of the world’s largest pro­duc­ers — is expected to rise in the cur­rent crop year, accord­ing to data from the International Olive Council (IOC).

Meanwhile, con­sump­tion in Spain and other pro­duc­ing coun­tries is antic­i­pated to slow down. Overall olive oil con­sump­tion in the European Union, respon­si­ble for nearly half of global con­sump­tion, is pro­jected to fall con­sid­er­ably, from 1.6 to 1.4 mil­lion tons.

The sce­nario for the olive oil sec­tor is not the best. The 2022/23 crop year, even if not con­cluded yet, will enter his­tory as greatly defy­ing expec­ta­tions.- Andrea Carrassi, gen­eral direc­tor, Assitol

Experts believe the unusual fore­cast, which has not been seen in the last five crop years, is a con­se­quence of con­verg­ing fac­tors.

Among them is the Mediterranean mega-drought, severely impact­ing olive pro­duc­tion in Spain and other coun­tries in the west­ern half of the basin.

See Also:Bulk Exports from Greece Help Fuel the Italian Olive Oil Industry

Additionally, high infla­tion has reduced house­hold food bud­gets across the con­ti­nent. Both infla­tion and the drought have resulted in ris­ing olive oil prices too. These fac­tors and the ongo­ing uncer­tainty of future har­vests have affected con­sump­tion.

According to the IOC, Greek olive oil con­sump­tion will rise to 110,000 tons, up from 106,300 tons in the 2021/22 crop year but below the rolling five-year aver­age.

We all know olive oil is a huge part of Greek cul­ture. Greece is among the lead­ing coun­tries in terms of per capita con­sump­tion of olive oil world­wide,” Stella Theodosiou, deputy direc­tor of the Greek olive oil pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tion, Sevitel, told Olive Oil Times.

Theodosiou said per capita con­sump­tion in the coun­try was esti­mated to be 11 kilo­grams per per­son in 2019/20. That year, Greek con­sump­tion was exceeded only by Spain, with 11.2 kilo­grams per per­son.

Theodosiou added that a 2021 study com­mis­sioned by the Greek Food Authority showed the ubiq­uity of extra vir­gin olive oil in Greek house­holds and con­firmed the role of small-scale pro­duc­tion for domes­tic con­sump­tion.

The major­ity of house­holds, 57 per­cent, reported that they use extra vir­gin olive oil pro­cured from rel­a­tives or friends,” she said. Branded olive oils appeared to be linked to access to olive oil pro­duc­tion, so 59 per­cent of those with­out access buy branded olive oils, com­pared to a very small num­ber, 7 per­cent, of those who have access.”

Even so, the pic­ture of olive oil con­sump­tion in Greece has sig­nif­i­cantly changed in recent years.

Although the accep­tance of olive oil is increas­ing, the Covid-19 pan­demic and the increase of infla­tion directly affected con­sump­tion habits and finally changed them,” Theodosiou said.

According to Sevitel, a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for inter­nal mar­ket devel­op­ment is the pre­vail­ing unbranded bulk sales, the qual­ity and safety [of which] are dis­puted,” Theodosiou said.

Many years of research [indi­cate] that the sale of bulk olive oil is a prac­tice that does not guar­an­tee food safety in con­trast to stan­dard­iza­tion and pack­ag­ing up to 5 liters,” Theodosiou said.

Sevitel experts believe the olive sec­tor must estab­lish a long-term strate­gic plan soon.

We con­sider Greece to be at a crit­i­cal point to decide the con­tent of a national strat­egy that will ensure the per­spec­tive and the future of Greek olive oil,” Theodosiou said.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the Ionian Sea, the IOC pro­jected that Italian olive oil con­sump­tion would grow from 481,700 tons in 2021/22 to 486,500 tons in the cur­rent crop year.

Despite a sig­nif­i­cant decline in pro­duc­tion due to drought and heat­waves, olive oil prices remain­ing high and infla­tion hurt­ing house­hold bud­gets, con­sumers were not deterred from invest­ing in olive oil bot­tles.

The sce­nario for the olive oil sec­tor is not the best,” Andrea Carrassi, the gen­eral direc­tor of the Italian Association of the Edible Oil Industry (Assitol), told Olive Oil Times. The 2022/23 crop year, even if not con­cluded yet, will enter his­tory as greatly defy­ing expec­ta­tions.”

In an off-year [in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree], we lost 50 per­cent of the national olive oil pro­duc­tion to drought and extreme weather,” he added.

A recent study from Nomisma, a con­sul­tancy, inves­ti­gated the pro­gres­sive reduc­tion of Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion in the last few decades. Between 2010 and 2012, Italian pro­duc­tion exceeded 500,000 tons. However, pro­duc­tion vol­umes have fallen to 300,000 tons or below since 2020.

To counter the trend, farm­ers, millers, bot­tlers, exporters and the Ministry of Agriculture are work­ing to estab­lish an inter­pro­fes­sional orga­ni­za­tion.

The goal of the inter­pro­fes­sional would be to boost pro­duc­tion through inno­va­tion, pro­tect­ing tra­di­tional pro­duc­ers, stim­u­lat­ing olive tree cul­ti­va­tion and cur­tail­ing the spread of the deadly olive tree bac­te­ria, Xylella fas­tidiosa.

The indus­try is used to cope with the national pro­duc­tion deficit, but [this sea­son] it had to face way more chal­leng­ing adver­si­ties than expected,” Carrassi said. Olive farm­ing through the Mediterranean has suf­fered, not only in Italy.”

Assitol esti­mated that con­sump­tion would rise to 600,000 tons, under­scor­ing the dis­par­ity between con­sump­tion and local pro­duc­tion, which fell to 235,000 tons in 2022/23.

To this, we must add the trou­bles trig­gered by the ris­ing costs of paper and glass, cru­cial pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als,” Carrassi said.

He added that the mod­er­ate increase in olive oil con­sump­tion in Italy esti­mated by the IOC is good news, given the highly chal­leng­ing moment.”

We have always been among the first posi­tions for olive oil con­sump­tion,” Carrassi said. During the Covid-19 pan­demic, Italians increased their pur­chases of healthy food prod­ucts, includ­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, and this trend con­tin­ues.”

Still, the Assitol gen­eral direc­tor under­lined how much more must be done to make olive oil con­sump­tion glob­ally grow.

We have to high­light how this beloved prod­uct accounts for less than 5 per­cent of the global food fat con­sump­tion,” Carrassi said. We have so much to do to pro­mote this extra­or­di­nary food abroad. In Italy, we need to over­come the idea that olive oil is just an ingre­di­ent, giv­ing value in any pos­si­ble way to its sen­sory and healthy qual­i­ties.”


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