According to the report World – Olive Oil (Virgin) – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights, recently published by IndexBox, in 2017 global virgin olive oil imports totalled 1,4 million tons, a -7,0% decrease against the previous year (2016). The total import volume increased at an average annual rate of +1,7% from 2007 to 2017 and the trend pattern remained consistent, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations being observed throughout the analysed period.

The pace of growth was the most rapid in 2010, when it surged by 15% year-to-year (y/y), following the global post-crisis recovery. Over the period under review, global virgin olive oil imports peaked at 1,6 million tons in 2014. However, from 2015 to 2017 imports remained at a somewhat lower level due to the consumption downturn in the two main consuming countries, Spain and Italy.

In value terms, virgin olive oil imports totalled $6,7 billion in 2017 (IndexBox estimates). The total import value increased at an average annual rate of +3,5% from 2007 to 2017 and the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations in certain years. Over the period under review, global virgin olive oil imports reached its peak figure level in 2017, and are likely to continue their pattern of growth in the near future, as the import price is expected to rise following supply-side shocks in Italy and Spain.  These countries suffered olive bacterial disease and dry weather which adversely affected the crop.

China and Japan remain the fastest growing importers

In 2017, Italy (454 000 tons) appeared as the main importer of virgin olive oil, comprising 32% of total imports. The two main suppliers to Italy are Greece and Spain, together accounting for over 87% of virgin olive oil imports. The United States (US) (227 000 tons) ranks second in terms of global imports with a 16% share, followed by France (8%), Spain (7%), and Portugal (5%). Germany (55 000 tons), Brazil (55 000 tons), Japan (41 000 tons), the United Kingdom (UK) (40 000 tons), and China (33 000 tons) assumed the weakest share in terms of total imports.

From 2007 to 2017, the most notable rate of growth with regard to imports, amongst the leading importing countries, was attained by China (+19,1% per year), and Japan (+9,5% per year) where healthy eating habits are gaining popularity and are expected to drive virgin olive oil consumption growth in the long term. Due to the recently-adopted 2018 Japan-European Union (EU) free trade agreements, the scope of consumption is expected to escalate even faster, but this would be partly offset by the still high and rising import price.

Spain emerged as the largest olive oil exporter

Global exports amounted to 1,4 million tons in 2017, dropping by -4,3% against the previous year (2016). The total export volume increased at an average annual rate of +2,2% from 2007 to 2017. However, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations over the period under review, including the relative slowdown noted since 2014. Overall, the most recent export fluctuations reflect the consumption and production downturn in Spain and Italy – the top two consuming countries. The pace of growth was the most rapid in 2014, with an increase of 18% year-to-year. In that year, global virgin olive oil exports attained peaked in terms of volume at 1,6 million tons. From 2015 to 2017, global virgin olive oil export growth failed to regain its strength.

In 2017, Spain (723 000 tons) represented the largest exporter of virgin olive oil, accounting for 52% of total exports. Spain mainly exports to Italy and the US. The latter is also the most significant export market for Italian virgin olive oil. Italy (236 000 tons) took second position in the ranking, followed, somewhat lagging behind, by Portugal (108 000 tons), Greece (106 000 tons), and Tunisia (86 000 tons). All these countries together occupied an approximately 39% share of total exports.

Exports from Spain increased at an average annual rate of +3,8% from 2007 to 2017. At the same time, Portugal (+19,3%), Greece (+2,1%), and Italy (+1,2%) displayed positive paces of growth. Moreover, Portugal emerged as the fastest growing exporter in the world, with a CAGR of +19,3% from 2007 to 2017. The Portuguese relative export and production boom is mostly a result of the Rural Development Programme that attracted subsidies and investment in this sector, with olive grove plantations rapidly expanding and technologies quickly developing as a result.

By contrast, Tunisia (-6,1%) illustrated a downward trend over the same period. While the share of Tunisia (5%) increased significantly in terms of global exports from 2007 to 2017, the share of Italy (-1,9%), Portugal (-6,4%), and Spain (-16,1%) displayed a negative dynamic. The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analysed period. – IndexBox