India imported 5,938 metric tons of olive oil in 2011, mostly from Italy and Spain, compared to 3,988 metric tons during the period in 2010, according to customs data.
While that amounted to a 49 percent increase over the previous year, it is still an extremely small amount of olive oil for a country of one and a quarter billion people.
Most of the growth was for olive pomace oil — the lowest edible grade of oil made from olives — which jumped by 131 percent during the period.
Italy and Spain together accounted for more than 90 percent of India’s olive oil imports. Turkey is the third largest supplier accounting for around 5 to 10 percent. Accurate figures for imports from Turkey were not yet available.
Spain accounted for 56 percent, while Italy accounted for 44 percent — imports from other notable olive oil exporting countries such as Greece, Syria and Tunisia are almost non-existent in India.
Virgin olive oil imports increased by 26 percent over the previous year.
The Crop Year data, a standard followed by the International Olive Council (IOC), showed that imports from Italy and Spain grew by 63 percent. In absolute terms, the volume of imports increased from 3,175 metric tons in 2010 to 5,182 metric tons in 2011.
The Indian Olive Association (IOA) has said that two major promotional campaigns to increase awareness about olive oil were underway, financed by the EU and key exporters Italy and Spain.
The IOA said: “The major challenge in India is that the trade standards for olive oil under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 are outdated and misaligned with the trade standards of the rest of the world represented by Codex as well as the trade standards of IOC. IOA has been pursuing the issue vigorously with the government.”