By Lindsey Partos
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Paris

The French may consume more sunflower oil than olive oil, but the latter is bringing premium price gains to retailers.

According to fresh figures from government organization FranceAgriMer, olive oil is the second most consumed oil behind sunflower oil at french retailers.

But while olive oil represents 21 per cent in terms of volume sales, it actually claims a considerable 43 per cent in terms of value.

“This is explained by the price per litre that is much higher than its principal competitors: EUR5.5 for olive oil, compared to EUR2.50 for mixed oils, EUR1.70 for sunflower, and EUR1.60 for colza,” clarified FranceAgriMer.

French consumption of olive oil is estimated at around 105 000 tonnes. In 2009 imports came in at 106 000 tonnes, more than 116 million litres.

The large swathe of imports hails from Spain and Italy that together make up 88 per cent of the olive oil consumed by the French.

Retailers are the hot spot for olive oil purchases, with 68  per cent of all olive oil bought at supermarkets and discount chains.

“The short circuit – or local shops – only have about 12 per cent of the market,” explained the government body, adding that the remaining sales are mopped up by the food and cosmetic industries.

Colza oil is a non-drying oil obtained from the seeds of Brassica campestris, var. oleifera, a variety of the plant that produces Swedish turnips. Colza is extensively cultivated in France, Belgium, United States of America, the Netherlands and Germany. In France, especially, the extraction of the oil is an important industry. In commerce, colza is classed with rapeseed oil, to which it is very closely allied in both source and properties.

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