Sao Paolo, Brazil

Brazilian olive oil imports have been steadily increas­ing over the past sev­eral years. Over the course of the 2017/​18 crop year, they rose by 28 per­cent to a record high of 76,816 tons.

Although we’re far from our best days, there are slight signs of recov­ery and this could account for this sur­pris­ing num­ber.- Sandro Marques

Only the United States and Italy import more olive oil than Brazil does and its con­sump­tion is con­tin­u­ing to grow in Latin America’s most pop­u­lous coun­try. Domestic pro­duc­tion con­tin­ues to slowly increase but accounts for less than one per­cent of what Brazilians con­sume.

Sandro Marques, author of the Guide to Brazilian Olive Oil and edi­tor of Um Litro de Azeite, told Olive Oil Times his hypoth­e­sis to explain why imports keep keep­ing going up.

“We’ve always been a great oil importer and the impact of the eco­nomic cri­sis and gen­eral pes­simistic out­look of the last years affected the imported vol­ume,” he said. “Although we’re far from our best days, there are slight signs of recov­ery and this could account for this sur­pris­ing num­ber.”

See more: The Best Olive Oils from Brazil

“Or not so sur­pris­ing,” he added. “Since we’re just going back to a pre­vi­ous pat­tern.”

Brazilian olive oil imports had pre­vi­ously reached 73,000 tons back in 2012/​13 but fell by one-third in 2015 after a dev­as­tat­ing reces­sion shrank the Brazilian econ­omy and greatly deval­ued its cur­rency.

Imported oils fare quite well in Brazil, accord­ing to Marques, because they are gen­er­ally much cheaper than domes­tic oils, for which there is not much demand.

“Brazil has a repressed demand for good qual­ity prod­ucts and when­ever the econ­omy is good peo­ple will buy more of those, regard­less of the ori­gin,” he said. “However, not all con­sumers that buy imported olive oil can afford Brazilian olive oil, which is usu­ally at least 50 per­cent more expen­sive than a typ­i­cal imported oil.”

According to the International Olive Council, 82 per­cent of imported olive oil in Brazil comes from Europe. Portugal is the lead­ing exporter, respon­si­ble for 59 per­cent of Brazilian imports. Spain (16 per­cent), Italy (six per­cent) and Greece (one per­cent) are the other major European exporters.

The remain­ing 18 per­cent of Brazilian imports come mostly from Argentina and Chile, at 10 per­cent and seven per­cent, respec­tively.

Marques does not view this increase in olive oil imports nec­es­sar­ily as a bad thing for Brazilian pro­duc­ers. He said they have carved out a niche in the mar­ket that is slowly increas­ing its con­sumer base as more afflu­ent Brazilians develop an appetite for higher qual­ity oils.

“What you could say is that the demand for top qual­ity oil is ris­ing as more afflu­ent Brazilians get to know our own oils,” he said. “The niche served by domes­tic pro­duc­ers has some over­lap with gen­eral olive oil con­sump­tion, but still a great part of it are savvy con­sumers who are look­ing for and can afford bet­ter qual­ity prod­ucts.”

As Brazil’s econ­omy slowly begins to recover, Marques does not see much of a prob­lem with imports con­tin­u­ing to increase. Brazilian pro­duc­tion is unlikely to ever be able to meet demand and Marques believes any inter­ac­tions with olive oil is likely to help Brazilian pro­duc­ers in the long run.

“But on the whole, if the mar­ket grows and pro­duc­ers do a good job of edu­cat­ing con­sumers, I don’t think the impact [of increas­ing imports] will be neg­a­tive,” he said. “Countless times I have given oil sam­ples to peo­ple to try and com­pare, and they are always amazed at how much bet­ter a Brazilian olive oil tastes when com­pared to a reg­u­lar imported oil from major brands.”


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