By Sarah Schwager
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Buenos Aires
This year’s Spanish olive oil marketing season has been confirmed as the most successful in history.
Yet the Spanish Association of Olive Municipalities (AEMO) says this is in stark contrast with a “depressed market incapable of paying production costs”.
The 2009-2010 season has already beaten all Spanish olive oil export records, thrashing the yearly average for the past four years by 33%.
Domestic consumption also remains strong with the total market 10% higher than the previous year.
Meanwhile, the average price of olive oil barely reached 1.76 euros (US$2.26) per kilogram, an easy sell for the marketers but devastating for producers, which in previous years was selling for 2.7 euros per kilo (US$3.47), but dropped 30% in the 2008-2009 season.
“We started the ‘course’ with very good news regarding the global marketing of Spanish olive oil, confirming that in this harvest we were going to pulverize all historical records reaching monthly export levels never seen before,” AEMO said in its latest bulletin.
According to Spain’s Olive Oil Agency, in the past financial year more than one million tons of olive oil were marketed, of which 577,000 tons left Spain, 17% more than the previous harvest and 33% more in relation to the yearly average over the past four years.
“Olive oil is captivating foreign consumers and the growth of consumption continues on an upwards slope,” AEMO said
But the Association says the equilibrium price does not reflect this optimistic consumer sales scenario, with Spanish olive growers enduring their second season in a row of below-cost production.
In January, it was reported that Spanish olive growers had lost millions of euros in the latest season, agriculturists losing on average 210 euros (US$270) per hectare as cheap seed oils thrived.
According to the Spanish Olive Oil Exporters Association, Spain is the top olive oil producing country in the world with an average annual production of 700,000 to 800,000 tons, reaching as high as 1.4 million in recent seasons.
Spain also triumphs in exports with an annual average in the last 10 years of more than 300,000 tons, reaching up to 600,000 tons in some seasons.
These figures show just how successful the 2009-2010 olive oil season was. But it appears the least likely to reap the rewards are the ones doing the hardest work – the olive growers.
The AEMO says while Spain’s olive crops are looking good for the next season they are far from what could be labeled an historic harvest.
“The only thing that is, and will be, historic is global olive oil sales, so that we can and shall confirm that prices will rise – since from a rational approach we have no doubts – but from this market you never know…”