We have read in at least three recent publications (Australian Extra Virgin – Production Facts and Figures (www.australianextravirgin.com.au , The Olive Grower and Processor, Weekly Times Now) that Australians consume approximately 44,000 tonnes of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) a year. This is not correct.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics import data, the imports of olive oil for the financial year ending in June 2008 were as follows:
Virgin olive oil in bulk (often referred to as extra virgin olive oil) 2,220 tonnes
Total virgin olive oil 15,093 tonnes
Olive oil, excluding virgin, packaged (referred to as refined olive oil) 14,931 tonnes
Olive oil, excluding virgin, bulk (referred to as refined olive oil) 1,867 tonnes
Total olive oil excluding virgin 16,798 tonnes
Note: These refined oils are usually described as ‘pure’ and ‘extra light’ on supermarket shelves.
Olive oil and their fractions including blends 333 tonnes
(referred to as olive pomace oil and blends with other vegetable oils)
The approximate figure of 44,000 tonnes is the total import figure added to the estimated Australian production of 12,000 tonnes giving a total consumption figure of 44,224 tonnes.
If we assume that Australian Olive Association assertion that ‘Australian olive oils are almost entirely extra virgin olive oil’, is correct, we can take 90% of Australian production as EVOO giving Australian consumption of extra virgin olive oil of around 26,000 tonnes, less exports.
Exports of virgin olive oil (which includes re-exported imports) for the financial year ending in June 2008 were 2556 tonnes.
A reasonable estimate of Australian consumption of EVOO is therefore 23,500 tonnes a year, 20,500 tonnes less that that claimed on the Australian Extra Virgin Brand website.
The website also claims that about 35% of Australian extra virgin produced in
Official Australian olive oil production reported by the International Olive Council for 2006/2007, which would be exported in 2007/2008, is 9,000 tonnes. This gives an export percentage closer to 28% (less when re-exports are taken into account).