Spanish olive oil exports to the United States rose unexpectedly in the first quarter of the 2020/21 fiscal year, which runs from October 2020 to January 2021.
The increase in exports from the world’s largest producer to the third-largest consumer came despite the 25-percent tariff imposed by the U.S. on packaged Spanish olive oil imports, which was still in force at the time and only temporarily suspended on March 5.
According to data from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, more than 54,000 tons of olive oil were shipped to the U.S. from October to January.See Also: Producers Puzzled by Turkish Ban on Bulk Olive Oil Exports
This represents a 49-percent increase compared with the previous quarter (from June to September 2020), making the U.S. the second-largest consumer of Spanish olive oil, slightly above Portugal and only behind Italy.
Along with increasing volumes, the value of exports to the U.S. grew as well, rising by 46 percent compared with the previous year to reach €149.4 million.
However, the average per-unit price of Spanish olive oil in the U.S. fell to €2.72 per kilogram, which was 2.3 percent lower than the previous crop year and two percent below the average per-unit price of Spanish olive oil exports, in general.
Additionally, demand for the extra virgin and virgin olive oil categories increased by about 72 percent, compared to the previous campaign.
Along with Spain, U.S. olive oil imports from the rest of the European Union rose as well, reaching more than 96,000 tons.
The figure represents a 44-percent increase compared to the previous crop year. It means that the U.S. consumes about 36 percent of E.U. exports, way ahead of second and third-placed Brazil and the United Kingdom, representing 11 percent and 10 percent of exports, respectively.
This substantial increase in the Spanish olive oil imports by the U.S. comes as a surprise to producers after a disastrous 2020, in which bottled olive oil sales to the country fell by 80 percent.See Also: Olive Oil Prices Hit Two-Year High in Spain
A variety of factors may be attributed to the reversal of fortunes for Spanish producers. Poor harvests across the rest of the Mediterranean basin drastically decreased the amount of available olive oil on the export market. Changing olive oil consumption trends in the U.S. over the past few years may also have had an impact.
According to data from the International Olive Council, U.S. olive oil consumption in the 2020/21 crop year is expected to dip slightly compared to last year’s record-high, falling from 399,500 tons to 357,000 tons.
Research from the consulting service, Market Business Insights, suggested that this decrease was largely fueled by the widespread closure of the restaurant and hospitality sector.
With the successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across the country, much of the U.S. is returning to normal and tourism is resuming. This has likely boosted demand for bulk olive oil from Spain, which makes up the majority of the U.S. imports.