The olive oil sector is going through a complicated period. It is a campaign with many nuances that has to be analysed at a global level, because it is a product that travels between different countries, but in which Spain has a significant influence, accounting for 40% of international production.
For this reason, the Olive Oil World Congress (OOWC) has begun its promotional activities, under the framework of the initiative called 'On the Road to OOWC 2024', by organising the conference entitled 'Olive hoy'. The event served to examine the current situation from production to consumers' perception, passing through the industry, trying to glimpse the future of this very important sector for all olive oil producing countries.
Under the slogan 'Taste it, enjoy, It's olive oil', the congress is sponsored by Agrobank, Junta de Castilla-La Mancha through the brand Campo y Alma, Grupo Interóleo, Balam Agriculture, Agrocolor and Kubota.
Ricardo Migueláñez, coordinator of the OOWC, was in charge of presenting this international initiative that has arisen in Spain as "a collaborative project for the entire olive oil sector, that aims to bring together all the producing countries. That is why we have the presence of Italy and Portugal on this first day, as it is impossible to analyse the olive oil sector without knowing what is happening in two important world operators such as these countries.
Francisco Martínez Arroyo, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development of the Regional Government of Castilla-La Mancha, opened the conference by pointing out that "Castilla-La Mancha has more than 80,000 olive growers and is the second Spanish region in terms of production, coming close to the top". The minister also recalled that this year's olive season has been short, "with a production of 70 million kilos, even less than had been forecast".
This was followed by the presentation 'Radiography of the olive oil sector in the world', by Juan Luis Vicente, head of the Department of Economic Studies and Statistics of the International Olive Oil Council (IOC).
Vicente pointed out that in the countries of the European Union, production has fallen by 33.8% compared to the previous season. In the case of Spain, production last season totalled 1,412,000 tonnes, falling to 780,000 tonnes in the 2022/2023 season, a drop of 47.7%. The same has happened in Italy and Portugal, where it has fallen by 28.6% and 39.4% respectively. In the case of Greece, production for this season has increased by 50.9%.
Likewise, the expert pointed out that on a global level, according to IOC estimates, olive oil production has fallen compared to the previous campaign and that "during the 2021/2022 campaign, production stood at 3,724,000 tonnes, while for the 2022/2023 campaign, the data indicate a production of 2,730,000 tonnes, which means a 19.7% drop".
On the other hand, in the case of imports, the IOC member pointed out that the main countries within the European Union are Spain and Italy, with a 38.6% and 32.2% increase compared to the 2021/2022 season. In the case of exports, the olive oil campaign in France has suffered a 63.9% drop compared to the 2021/2022 campaign, followed by Spain with 35.8%, Italy with 20.9% while in Greece it has grown by 14.3%. Globally, there has been a decrease of 16.6%.
With a very short season, olive oil prices at source in Spain are once again on the rise and the historic drop in production threatens to continue to push prices upwards. "In the case of Spain, the latest IOC figures put extra virgin olive oil at €527.5 per 100 kg, 58.2% more than in the same period of 2021/2022. A situation that exists in a similar way in other producing countries", Vicente affirmed.
With regard to consumption, the data provided by the IOC showed that world consumption in the 2022/2023 season is 5.7% less than in the previous season. Spain is at the top of the list of European Union countries that have seen their consumption fall, with 27.6% less than the previous season. At a considerable distance behind are other producers such as France and Portugal, whose consumption has fallen by 5.1% and 3.2% respectively.
This was followed by a roundtable discussion on 'Challenges and opportunities for the sector', moderated by Pedro Antonio Martínez, Director of Agrobank DT Castilla-La Mancha, with the participation of Esteban Momblán, Interoleo Manager; Mariana Matos, General Secretary of Casa do Azeite de Portugal; Nicola Carbone, Economic Attaché of the Italian Embassy in Madrid; and Felipe Medina, Technical General Secretary of Asedas.
The members of the round table highlighted the internationalisation of companies in the sector as one of the main challenges for professionals, as well as a commitment to economic sustainability and the sector's commitment in this regard.
Likewise, the participants pointed out the need to establish more competitive structures, both in the field and in the production and marketing of olive oil, and, on the other hand, the search for stable commercial relations and the cooperation of the different links in the chain in the communication and promotion of this product focused on the consumer.
For her part, Mariana Matos stressed that in Portugal "more than 60% of bulk exports are destined for Italy and Spain" and added that two realities coexist in the country, "a new and highly professionalised olive oil sector and 75% of the geographical area where there are structural problems, in which it is necessary to intervene to gain more dimension and maintain the social and environmental sustainability of these regions". Likewise, Matos pointed out that other priorities are "gaining in consumers, where the world trend is decreasing, and also continuing to work on the development of markets".
Similarly, Nicola Carbone recalled that Italy's challenges include investing in research and development to prevent diseases that can affect the crop, rejuvenating olive plantations and mechanising them to reduce the price of labour and convincing producers to join forces to increase competitiveness". Italy exports 3% of its annual olive oil production to international markets such as the United States, France, Germany and Japan. "In Italy we have more than 350 varieties of cultivation in production, which represents more than 42% of the World Heritage of types of olive oil in the world, which means that we have 49 Denominations of Origin of Olive Oil, which translates into 40% of all the DOs of the European Union".
Eventually, the second of the roundtables was held under the title 'The new consumers of olive oil', with the participation of José Zafrilla, New Business Manager of Kantar WorldPanel; and Fernando Móner, president of Avacu.
Zafrilla explained how consumer behaviour is influenced by various factors, "not only the price, but also confidence in the product, the different formats in which it is presented, etc. This is also the case with olive oil, a product influenced by a multitude of factors that must be followed in order to correct and work on consumer perception, and it is necessary to control the consumer's global vision".
For his part, Moner highlighted during his speech how consumers "have been losing purchasing power for 18 months, specifically since March 2022, when they began to take on debt, and this, of course, has also affected the olive oil sector".
Likewise, the president of Avacu assured the need for a common message from the entire sector to consumers "especially to combat fake news that can affect the olive oil consumer, who enjoys a very high rating but whose information to society about its nutritional properties must continue to be worked on, especially among young people".