Olive oil and olive pomace oil imports into the United States are still steadily climbing, achieving 7 percent growth over last year, the latest International Olive Council (IOC) figures show.

They totaled 290,227 tons for the first 11 months of the 2011/12 season) and are expected to top 300,000 tons once the September figures are in, according to the IOC’s October market newsletter.

Italy remains the leading supplier, with 143,656 tons and up 4 percent. Spain follows with 84,371 tons but greater growth, 35 percent, season-on-season.

Next is Tunisia, 30,308 tons (+24 percent), Argentina with 8,997 tons (+33 percent) and Greece with 5,222 tons (+30 percent).

Nearly two-thirds of all imports were virgin grade, 30 percent were olive oil and 5 percent olive pomace oil.

Chinese market smaller but growing faster

China outstripped forecasts to import nearly 45,968 tons of olive oil and olive pomace oil in 2010/11, the IOC also reported.

It may not reach even a sixth of US imports but this market has seen spectacular growth of 38 percent on the previous year.

Spain was the top source with 26,885 tons, accounting for 60 percent of total Chinese olive oil imports and more than double rival Italy’s 10,729 tons. Greece follows with 2,720 tons and Tunisia with 1,115 tons.

The vast majority – 84 percent – of Chinese imports was virgin grade, 5 percent was olive oil and 11 percent olive pomace oil.

Spanish exports also up in Australia, Japan, Brazil, Russia

The world’s top producer and exporter, Spain saw its sales to non-European Union countries climb by a fourth in the first 11 months of 2011/12. Its record harvest translated into higher exports into all six of its top non-EU destinations: the U.S., China, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Russia.

Overall world market 2011/12 crop year

The IOC reports total imports for October to August are up 13 percent into Russia, 18 percent into Japan, and 14 percent into Brazil, but still down into Canada and Australia, with declines of 4 and 3 percent respectively.

Imports into the EU are up 12 percent season-on-season, which the IOC says probably reflects “some operators’ expectations of a poor harvest (in Spain) in 2012/13.”

Proof of Spain’s pricing impact

Producer prices for extra virgin olive oil in Italy and Greece have now reflected the rise that occurred in Spain starting in late June.

In Italy, they’ve risen over the last two months, climbing from €2.38/kg in the first week of August to end October at €2.84/kg, compared to €2.48/kg for Spain.

And over three months in Greece they’ve risen 13 percent, from €1.82/kg in late July to €2.21/kg in late October.

“While they have taken longer to materialize in Italy and Greece, these rises show the influence of prices in Spain, the world’s foremost producer, despite the prospects of a good 2012/13 harvest in the first two countries, Greece particularly” the IOC said.

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