With its harvest now basically over and a million tons below that of last season, the world’s leading olive oil producer imported more olive oil in March, and exported less, than in any other month in the last four years, new figures show.

According to the Spanish Olive Oil Agency’s (AAO) latest market report, Spain made just 10,200 tons of olive oil last month, bringing to 607,000 tons its total so far for 2012/13. Production remains down 62 percent on last season’s record of 1.61 million tons.

Meanwhile, imports already stand at 61,300 tons for the first half of this season, October-March, which is more than the total Spain bought in any of the previous four seasons. In March, Spain imported 16,000 tons of olive oil and in February nearly 14,000 tons, according to the AAO. The monthly average for the last four years is 3,800 tons and the most in any month was 10,000 tons, in May last year.

And exports have gone the other way. Spain shipped just 35,000 tons of olive oil in March. This (provisional) total is the lowest for any month in the AAO figures since 2008/2009. Overall, exports this season are down a fifth and domestic sales 13 percent below average for the same period.

Most commentators attribute this decline to the fact ex-mill olive oil prices are now about €1 higher than this time last year.

Spain’s olive oil stocks stood at 823,200 tons at the end of last month, a quarter under the four-year average.

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