words by Carol King
Italian olive-oil firms may soon have to slug it out with those in the US to maintain their market dominance.
According to a report by California-based Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory, American olive-oil producers are expected to capture 5% of the lucrative olive-oil market in the US over the next five years. The American olive-oil market is the third largest for consumption in the world and such an increase would hit Italian producers.
At present 99% of olive oil consumed in the US is imported, mostly from Europe, and Italian imports count for the lion’s share at 51%. Italy also dominates the top end of the market with its sales of extra-virgin olive oil. But American producers are expanding: California has 30,013 acres of olive trees and is expected to add 5,000 acres a year until 2020.
Although Rabobank analysts forecast that olive-oil sales in the US will grow 2.5% a year until 2015, with Americans set to produce more olive oil and of better quality, the traditional leaders in the industry – Italy, Spain and Greece – are set to face a battle to hold their ground. The top three European producers are also vulnerable to increasing competition from Morocco, Tunisia, Australia and Chile.
As the New World is no longer a shy virgin in the olive-oil production, so Italy will have to look to efficiencies in production and market itself as the knowing beauty if it wants to maintain its market lead in what traditionally been an important industry for the country.