Business

Olive Oil Imports Reach Record in Brazil

Only the United States and Italy import more olive as consumption continues to grow in Latin America’s most populous country.

Sao Paolo, Brazil
Nov. 9, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Sao Paolo, Brazil

Recent News

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.”

Advertisement

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.”

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.”