For the first time, Italy is no longer the leading producer of extra virgin olive oil, with the country having now been surpassed by both Spain and Greece.
The findings were issued by the National Consortium of Olive Growers (Consorzio Nazionale Olivicoltori – CNO), adding that Syria would have also surpassed Italy had it not been suffering from a devastating war. It also underlined the growth of Morocco (+44%) and Turkey (+ 27%) in the last six years, a period during which production in Italy fell by 31%.
Based on the provisional figures of the current marketing year for olive oil, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017, Greece produced 195,000 tonnes, compared to Italy’s 183,000.
Syria has massively invested in professional olive cultivation since the late 90s, just before the conflict broke out. In the last six years, Tunisia, which invests heavily in the olive industry, has produced three times more olive oil than the volume obtained by Italy in the current 2016-2017 campaign.
Further evidence of the decline in the Italian olive oil chain is that the long-term trend of production is declining sharply, while the most aggressive European and global competitors are showing exceptional production growth rates. Three main factors are at the root of Italy’s negative performance are cited as: the process of abandoning cultivation, the fragmentation of the productive structure and the lack of modernisation of the sector.
CNO president Gennaro Sicolo highlighted the need for the immediate implementation of a national plan, taking into account regions and productive districts, for the reconversion, restructuring and modernisation of Italian olive cultivation. He pointed out that the Italian olive oil sector will need more than 150 million new olive trees in production and at least 25,000 new workers.