Monday, February 23, 2009

Corrected Australian Consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We have read in at least three recent publications (Australian Extra Virgin – Production Facts and Figures ( , 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.

Australia’s consumption of olive oil is the sum of imports and local production, less the sum of exports of local production and re-exported imports.

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 packaged (often referred to as extra virgin olive oil) 12,873 tonnes

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)

Total olive oil imported 32,224 tonnes

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 Australia is exported. The virgin olive oil exports for last financial year (2007/2008) were 2556 tonnes – including imports that are re-exported which are not separately recorded.

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).

Olive Business