Spain, the world’s leading producer of olive oil, is maintaining its position on top of the industry’s pecking order, with most of its growth tied to new markets.

Recent figures from Spain’s customs department show that the country’s exports of bottled olive oil in 2010 increased by 10 percent to a record high €1.95 billion. The increase was even higher to countries outside the European Union; Spain’s export growth to non-EU markets was 17 percent, thanks to the patronage of fast-growing markets like China, Brazil and Russia.

China is now the 10th largest market for Spanish oil exports, with sales reaching €34.6 million ($48.8 million). Spain’s exports to China have tripled since 2007. Recently, Spain’s olive oil exports to China received a boost from Hojiblanca’s trade agreement with Yikhai Kerry Investment Co. Ltd. that resulted in the purchase of 3,000 metric tons of olive oil.

Brazil has likewise experienced a surge in Spanish olive oil consumption. In just three years, the country’s imports have almost doubled, making it the eighth largest market for Spanish oil in the world. Last year, Brazil purchased €44.8 million ($63.1 million) worth of olive oil, up from €28.1 million ($39.6 million) in 2007. Hojiblanca will ship two million liters of olive oil to Brazil this year.

Last year, Spain produced 1.4 million metric tons of olive oil. Italy, its closest competitor, produced 460,000 metric tons. Greece, meanwhile, produced 360,000 metric tons. Spain’s main export markets are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Italy and Portugal. According to figures from the International Olive Council (IOC), sales of Spanish olive oil last year were equal to those of Greece, Italy and Portugal combined.

Spain’s olive oil industry is comprised of about 1,950 companies. The majority of the country’s olive oil is produced in the autonomous regions of Andalusia and Castilla La-Mancha. Andalusia, which is responsible for about 40 percent of all Spanish production, holds the distinction as the world capital for olive oil production. Castilla La-Mancha produces 6 percent of the total Spanish output. Other regions involved in olive oil production are Extremadura, Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia.

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