Encouraged by a rapidly expanding middle class and increasing awareness of the health benefits of olive oil, the Indian consumer is joining the international salute to olive oil. And the Indian government is following suit.
The current rate of Indian consumption stands at a modest 100-110 tonnes annually, but according to a recent report under the wing of Economic and Commercial Office of the Embassy of Spain in New Delhi, India’s olive oil market is anticipated to rise at a steady pace of 25 percent per year, a figure they are expected to sustain for the next five years.
ICEX credits the boom in consumption to the success of Spanish promotional olive oil campaigns, while Italy, its competitor, has long been synonymous with olive oil in India. Local production has been a slow starter, due in part to the success of the rivaling rice oil market. But as consumption continues on an upward trend, officials are seeking to expand in-house production, specifically in the North where the demand is high.
Experimental cites established over the last 7 years in the northern regions of Punjab and Rajasthan have so far shown promising results. According to Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini, “We are encouraging farmers to grow olive and giving them free plants and technical assistance and advice to make the farming financial viable. They are also being given buy-back guarantee. The crop starts giving fruits in 4-6 years and continues for long if maintained properly.”
The Indian government has assigned 11 more districts to the olive cultivation project. “With this, people will have the taste of Olives grown in Rajasthan. We are planning to sell the olive oil under the brand name ‘Raj Olive Oil’,” Saini said.
ICEX acknowledges the new growth as an international opportunity saying the new sites, “could be a good business opportunity for Spanish companies to establish through joint ventures in the country and sell their know-how to local companies”.
Up until now, olive oil awareness has primarily been harnessed by India’s olive oil advocacy body, the Indian Olive Association, who came together 7 years ago to assimilate the growth and changes in the country’s market.