the geography of olive oil
From its origins in the eastern Mediterranean thousands of years ago, the olive is today cultivated on every continent across the globe.
85% of the world's olives are grown in the 23 nations that are members of the International Olive Oil Council, an inter-governmental organisation based in Madrid that promotes olive oil around the world by tracking production, defining quality standards, and monitoring authenticity.
Demand for olive oil is growing at 6% a year globally.
Today Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world. Unbelievably during a good harvest, accounting for 60% of total global production! An average figure however is about 45%, followed by Italy with 20%, Greece 13%, Turkey 5%, Syria 5%, Tunisia 4%, Morocco 3% and Portugal 1.5%. So, although the vast majority of the world's olive oil production is still from in and around the Mediterranean it is important to note that more and more is being contributed by countries as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, the U.S.A., Japan and China.
Has more varieties of olives than any other country. Virtually all of her regions cultivate olives and produce olive oil with 70% of it being produced in the southern regions of Puglia and Calabria and a further 10% in Sicily
Much further north, Tuscany whilst only contributing 3% of the country's total production figure, its oil is of such consistently high quality that it actually produces more extra virgin olive oil than any other region!
Italy actually exports more olive oil than it produces! Beware! Just because it says "packed in Italy" does not mean the oil is Italian, it is likely the oil "packed" or "imported" from Italy comes from olives grown in Spain or Greece!
The hot and stable summer climate of inland Spain is ideal for producing huge harvests of olives and normally the country is easily the worlds largest producer of olive oil. The southern inland provinces of Jaen and Cordoba in Andalucia, together account for almost 50% of Spains total olive oil production. Contributing much less in volune are the northern regions of Lerida and Tarragona but their limited production is renowned for its quality.
Much of the Spanish crop is exported to Italy (!!!!), where it is both consumed and repackaged for sale abroad as Italian olive oil!
The Greeks consume more olive oil per head of population than any other country. (24 kilos per person per annum - twice that of Italy or Spain). They also produce as a percentage of total production more extra virgin olive oil than any other country. Greece is the third largest producer of olive oil in the world with the Peloponnese on the mainland and the islands of Crete and Lesbos being the major regions of production.