Chile exported an unprecedented 1,522 tons of olive oil during the first five months of 2011, marking a 221 percent increase over the same period in 2010. The approximate value of these exports was $6.1 million, an increase of 131 percent.

According to Chile’s Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies (ODEPA), the United States accounted for roughly 40 percent of sales for the South American country’s emerging olive oil market, up 8 percent since 2006. Bulk orders make up the majority of exports to the U.S.

Gustavo Rojas, director of ODEPA, attributed the boost in olive oil exports this year to the “constant hard work” of the 47 producers that make up the organization ChileOliva.

He also cited ChileOliva’s big win at the Corfo Sectoral Brands Competition last October, which provided the group with $1.9 million towards the design and implementation of a strategic marketing campaign in the country of their choice.

“We chose the United States because it’s our biggest market,” explained general manager of ChileOliva Iris Carmona back in October. Since then the group has worked to improve the image of Chilean olive oil in the eyes of foreign consumers, particularly Americans. They took cues from the successful national campaign that helped garner worldwide acclaim for Chilean wines in recent decades.

Spain, Brazil and Venezuela were among the other top export destinations for Chilean olive oil in 2011. The popularity of Chilean oils in Spain is particularly noteworthy given that the country is the world’s leading producer of olive oils.

The success of Chilean oils has also been aided by various international prizes received at competitions like Terraolivo, Oil China, Sol de Oro, Armonia and the Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition this year.

Although Chile’s national olive oil industry has been active since 1952, it wasn’t until the late 90s that the country began to invest heavily in this sector and develop marketing strategies for exportation. By 2004 Chile had developed a total of 3,700 hectares olive-growing land and built 20 mills producing upwards of 1,500 tons of extra virgin oil per year. Today Chile boasts over 20,000 hectares of olive-growing land capable of producing roughly 8,500 tons of oil per year. Chile is expected to have over 35,000 hectares of olive vineyards by the year 2014.

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