The Financial Times have devoted some space to the turbulent olive oil market of the “Big Three,” namely Spain, Italy and Greece. Pointing out that the price of olive oil has dropped to a 10-year low since demand has sunk due to the economic crisis, the article also correlates the fading of olive oil consumption with competition from cheaper vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil.
In Spain, sunflower oil costs only €1.25 per liter, while olive oil is sold at €1.99 and extra virgin at €3.25. Domestic consumption of olive oil in Spain will fall back to the levels of 2002 and in Italy and Greece to 1995 levels, the article states, citing the International Olive Oil Council.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the price of extra virgin oil in May stands at $2,900 per ton, having lost over half its value since 2005 when the ton was sold for approximately $6,000.
To make things worse, this year’s over-production of olive oil in Spain created an imbalance in the oil market where demand fell far short of supply, forcing the European Commission to again allocate a budget to pay the producers to store the surplus quantities.
Less virgin or extra virgin olive oil means more vegetable or other types of oil, leading the population to a less healthy diet in the (not so) long run. But for now, diminishing demand and lower prices could mean that rural jobs are in jeopardy, deteriorating an already ghastly predicament where unemployment in the three Mediterranean countries rates over 20 percent.