Greek olive oil producers are looking east for new business opportunities in the midst of a crisis.

“The economic crisis is making everyone think about other ways to sell and China is an untapped opportunity for Greek producers,” said George Kouvelis, general manager and organizer of Eleotechnia, a yearly olive oil exhibition held in Athens.

In an interview with Olive Oil Times, Kouvelis said olive oil makes up only one percent of China’s edible vegetable oils market which is estimated to total 42 million tons. It’s just one of the reasons he has scheduled a new event this fall, a special workshop called Shanghai and Olive Oil to help Greek olive oil producers sell and promote their products in the Chinese market.

Kourvelis’s initiative makes sense. In 2012, China became Greece’s fourth largest export market for virgin olive oil behind Italy, Germany and the U.S. “There is a need for this kind of information and training. We find our product has a lot of potential in China where it’s considered very special and often offered as a gift or for medicinal use,” said Kouvelis.

Kouvelis said olive oil exports to China were so low in the recent years that the current interest in the market appears very impressive. According to Greek Statistics Bureau, EL.Stat., Greek virgin olive oil exports to China grew at 160 percent from 2010-2012.

“We’re also working with the Greek embassies in China to put Greek olive oil producers in front of the right people to make the right opportunities happen,” said Kouvelis. At the Shanghai and Olive Oil workshop, business leaders will discuss how to conduct business to business meetings with Chinese companies and find opportunities to market Greek olive oil at food exhibitions in China.

China’s chunk of the Greek olive oil export industry is gaining momentum. While it has been reported that China’s share stands at $8.5 million out of a $263 million dollar industry, that number has doubled in recent years surpassing both Canada and Russia.

“There’s a vast opportunity in China and a chance for quality Greek olive oil producers to truly reach that market,” said Kouvelis.

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