Olive oil imports are up 31 percent in Japan, 24 percent in China, 15 percent in Canada, 14 percent in Brazil, and 9 percent in Australia and Russia, for the first four months of the 2012/13 crop year, according to the latest data from the International Olive Council (IOC).

In its March newsletter, the IOC also said that compared to the same period in 2011/12, imports had risen 3 percent in the United States (U.S.) – a market which enjoyed growth of 9 percent last season and is the world’s biggest olive oil consumer after Italy and Spain.

In January, the U.S. imported 24,570 tons, while China took an unseasonably high 6,360 tons, Brazil 5,500 tons and Japan 4,253 tons.

Imports up 66 percent into E.U.

Meanwhile, the drop in European Union (E.U.) production this season is obliging its member states to buy outside the E.U., the IOC said.

Imports of olive oil into the E.U. for last October-December were up two-thirds on the same period a year before.Tunisia accounted for about 73 percent of the nearly 29,000 tons of imports – most of it virgin grade – into the E.U. in that quarter, and Morocco nearly a fifth. Italy took most of the Tunisian imports and Spain most of the Moroccan oil.

E.U. trading trends

In a section on E.U. trading trends, the IOC said leading world player Spain exported about 956,400 tons in 2011/12, of which 70 percent was sold within the E.U., Italy alone bought nearly 405,000 tons from Spain.

Italy, on the other hand, sells nearly two-thirds of its olive oil beyond the E.U., mainly to the U.S.

The newsletter also shows intra-E.U. exports (olive oil sold to one E.U. country from another) totaled nearly 988,800 tons in 2011/12 but separate IOC figures put the total declared for intra-EU imports at about 1.07 million tons – a discrepancy of more than 81,000 tons.

In its February newsletter, the IOC expressed concern about the growing gap in these figures – which already stood at 24,033 tons for the first two months of the current season – and said it would need to be tracked.

Olive oil prices

Ex-mill prices for extra virgin olive oil now lie at €2.97/kg in Spain, up 70 percent on a year ago.

In the last week of March they stood at €3.21/kg in Italy and €2.04/kg in Greece.

The difference between the price of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil currently lies at about €0.27/kg in Spain and €0.39/kg in Italy, the IOC said.

Table Olives

Table olive imports in the first four months of the 2012/13 crop year (October 2012–January 2013) rose 24 percent in Canada, 11 percent in Australia, 10 percent in Russia, and 6 percent in Brazil.

Though they fell by 1 percent in the U.S., it remains the biggest non-E.U. buyer and has this season been importing an average of more than 10,000 tons of table olives a month.

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