With Italy the largest importer/exporter and Spain the largest producer, the Mediterranean basin is considered to be the hub of olive oil production and related business. With the growing awareness, advance research and increased concerns for health hazards, the demand of for this healthy oil is rising. Apart from the traditionally popular Mediterranean basin, the cultivation of the olive tree is spreading to other countries like the United States, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries. In the United States, the indigenous quality is getting better and people are putting more and more trust on the locally produced oil. In fact, the state of California is becoming the Mediterranean of the United States.
- Spain 45%
- Italy 25%
- Greece 20%
- California 0.5%
- Other 9.5%
List of Countries World Wide with Olive Cultivation
The following list contains names of the countries that produce a significant amount of the total global production.
The largest producer of Olive Oil in the world cultivates more than 300 million olive trees covering an area of five million acres. The Spaniards lack the art of blending. Italy is the biggest purchaser from Spain where the Italian skills convert it into different labels and re-export it to the rest of the world. Only 20% of the total Spanish production is extra virgin. There is rich variety of cultivars in Spain and the different cultivars produce different varieties of oil.
The annual production in Italy ranges between 500,000 to 700,000 tonnes. The country is famous for being rich in local cultivars. According to an estimate there are 700 different locally grown cultivars in Italy. Italians have the ability to blend oil from other places and convert them into bigger brands of high quality and price. This particular skill makes Italy the biggest importer and exporter. It sells more oil than its production.
The Greek’s attachment with olive oil is deeper than any other nation. They are historically, culturally and economically attached to it. They eat more olive oil than any other nation in the world. Greece produces 400,000 tonnes of oil per year. One hundred and fifty million olive trees cover a land of 2.4 million acres in Greece. There are more than 2800 mills running and ready for crushing olives and extraction oil from the local produced fruit. Greek oil comes from more than 100 different cultivars.
Turkey has a long history of olive trees and oil. Currently, the country cultivates the number of trees which are tipple of its own population. According to the World Bank, the total population of Turkey is 73 million while the number of olive tree is 250 million. That means on average for every one person there are three olive trees. Most of these are grown along the Aegean Seas cost in the West of the country. There are many different types of olives in Turkey of which the most popular is the Ayvalik also known as Adremittion. It tastes like the Italian Tuscany oil. Turkey produces more oil than it consumes and exports the surplus.
It is surprising to know some sources claiming that Tunisia is the fourth largest exporter of olive oil. Why is it not known to the world? The reason for that, according the sources, is that Tunisian Oil is exported in bulk to countries like Italy and Spain where it is bottled and sold under different brands. May be not known to the world market, but it is the fact is that Tunisia olive oil is still produced more traditionally and mechanically in large quantities than anywhere else. Recently, there have been efforts to bottle the oil within the country and sell them as Tunisian oil. According to Hamman Marketing they launched a campaign in 2009 to 100% market Tunisian Oil in the US and since then they were able to increase it by 500%.
The olive industry in Portugal has been the victim of neglect for a long time. The good news is it is now recovering from this neglect. Historically, Portugal has been one of the ancient places known for olive cultivation. Right from the time of Romans, the Arab occupation and succeeding eras, Olives were widely cultivated and cared for. Olive trees cover an estimated area of 741000 acres and nearly fifty percent of the oil is extra virgin.
Many believe that the birth place of olive tree is Syria. There are 74 million trees grown approximately over 517000 hectares of land. . The Syrian authorities are serious in developing the industry further and a result of some measure Syria has been able to produce 165000 tones of olive oil over the period of two seasons. To further give credibility to olive oil, Syria joined the International Olive Oil Council in 1998 and since then, has been a very active member. According to some Eastern specialists, Olive was first native to Syrian around 6000 years ago. It spread to the rest of the Mediterranean basin from Syria. Olive Oil Syria, in their website, claim that 11000 jars were found in Ebla’s archeological sites. Out of these 1000 jars, 4000 were held for the Royal family and their staffs while 7000 were held for the common people. The site claims the documents to have been dated around 2400 B.C and the name used was “zirtoon” which is very similar to the modern day Arabic name “zaytoon” meaning olive.
The International Olive Council forecast that Morocco would double its production of olive oil by 2011. With that goal in mind the production stood at 150000 tons by the end of that year. Not only that, Morocco plans to hit the high target of 370000 tons by the end of 2020. Morocco occupies a rank of 7th largest producer a major part of which is exported to Italy for bottling and re-export.
The Moroccan government describes Morocco oil to be one of the best qualities and confirms that 90% of it is produced from a cultivar known as Picholine which is globally recognized for its fruity flavor. The climate of Morocco is ideal for olive cultivation. It is mild in winter, warm and dry in summer and the soil has an equal balance of clay and course sands. Moroccans have been able to win rewards for quality, purity, freshness, taste and variety. The Moroccan government website published that in the International Tasting Competition 2008, Morocco grabbed the third place for best extra virgin olive oil. The competition was conducted by the International Olive Oil Council. Some Moroccans also grabbed gold medals for best olive oil at the festival held in France by the Agency for the Promotion of Agricultural Products.
Algeria olive tree orchards are growing in number and there are estimated to be more than 300 orchards or olive groves. The total area covered is 309500 ha. According to a report by IOC, 79% of the olives are grown for oil while 21% is cultivated for table olive production. There are 1650 mill across the country of which 1400 are traditional, 85 have some sort of modern equipment while 165 are modern mills. Under the National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP), the government is determined to boost the industry by modernizing the mills and developing the agricultural production. The biggest problem in Algeria is the alternation phenomenon which means that a good harvest is followed by a worse harvest in the following year. More recently the agricultural ministry has taken some drastic measures and expects that this year production will reach around 45000 tons.
Lebanon is rich in indigenous olive trees and its history of olive tradition is as old as its cultural history. Although, Lebanon is a small country; its topography is diverse. It has many micro-climates and its soil is naturally fit for the cultivation of olive trees. The Lebanese Olive Oil estimated that there are more than 13 million olive trees in Lebanon which covers around 57000 hectares of land. Like Algeria, alternate years of production are the common features of Lebanese olive trees. Of the total production of the olive crop, 70% is crushed for oil while the remaining 30% is meant for table olives. There are around 600 mills distributed through the country. Most mills (80%) are traditional mills using the stone while the remaining 20% are either automated or semi automated. The Lebanese producers maintain their quality through standards set by IOOC of which Lebanon is an active member. The Lebanon olive site describes the Lebanese Olive Oil as having mild aroma which is considered intense but mellow with a peppery finish once it enters the mouth.
Albania produces on average 30 to 38 thousands tons per year. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the best year was 1963 with a production of 64000 tons. In 2004, Albania had another bumper crop which produced 58700 tons. There are more than 28 cultivars grown in Albania. The two most popular and highly grown are “Kalinjot” and Kokermadh i Beratit”. The Kalinjot accounts for 40% whereas Kokermadh i Beratit represents 21% of table olives. Albania became a member of International Olive Oil Council in 2009.
As compared to other European countries, the olive oil production in Franc is small. The country produces between 3000 and 5000 tonnes per year while the domestic consumption is over 80,000 tonnes. The difference is imported from other countries. Three regions are the major producers of olive in France: Rhone-Alpes, Languedoc, and Provence.
Argentina is one of the top olive oil producing country in Latin America. The locally produced oil is exported to other countries as there is a very low consumption culture among the people of Argentina. Recently the government has been actively promoting domestic consumption and declared olive oil as a national food. In 2011, Argentina produced 200,000 tons. The country contributes 6.4% to the total global production. Argentina is the only South American country who is the member of IOOC.
I have listed Libya here No 14. Some sources say that Libya is the 12th largest producer of Olive Oil in the world. The Libyan climate is arid and fit for the cultivation of the olive tree. Libya is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea at the North and hence forms a natural home for the growth of olives. The total number of olive trees is 8 million which covers 140,000 of the total 3.6 million hectares arable land. The annual production of olive fruit is 160000 tons while that of the oil from the fruit stands at 32000 tons.
In an article published in Jordan Times on 17th February, 2010, Jordan is the 8th largest olive oil and fruit producing country in the world. There are 1.5 million trees all over Jordan which produce an average production of 190,000 tons of olive oil. There are around 103 oil mills and most of them (99%) use advanced technology for extraction and pressing. Jordan adheres strictly to the quality and standards of Olive oil and follows the standards set by the International Olive Oil Council. Apart from IOOC, the Ministry of Agriculture in Jordan also looks at the tasting and tests to ensure high quality production.
16. United States of America
America is not new to olives and was first brought by the European settlers as early as in 1769. Although, the biggest importer and consumer outside Europe, its own domestic production is very small which accounts for only 0.1 percent of the global production. California is the only the state which grows almost all the olive trees in the United States of America. The Californian Olive Oil Council (COOC) issues the seal of quality backed by chemical analysis and panel tasting for higher quality.
The Arabian Olive Oil company describes Egypt to be the birth place of Olive trees and oil. The myth goes that the goddess ISIS taught the Egyptian how to cultivate olive trees thousands of years ago. However, that is a myth and has nothing to do with reality. According to Charles Quest-Ritson “Egypt is a net importer of olive oil; Egyptian olive oil is generally poor quality and seldom seen abroad. The better brands include Al-Neama, Baraka, Domaine Horus, El Salheya, Golden Field, Isis, Mina and Pioneer.”
Like Egypt, Jordon and Syria, Israel has a deep religious and historical connection with Olive. Mentioned in several places in the Bible, it has a close connection with the Jewish people. The Olive leaf is a part of the Israel’s emblem. There have been many reports of fake olive oil in Israel which is sold in the domestic supermarkets. Reports even claimed to have found lampante oil sold as real olive oil in shop shelves. However, the interest of Israel in the olive industry can be seen from the fact that it is one of the founding members of the International Olive Council.
Cypriots have literally survived on Olive Oil and bread as the common proverb says. This strong connection is also evident from the fact that the Cypriots celebrate one day in a year as olive day. According to Cyprus oil the Cyprus land rose from the sea and due to its sunshine, clean air and iodium, Cyprus is the home of one of the best olive oils in the world. Cyprus became IOC member when it joined the European Union.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia imported 95% of the Olive products for domestic consumption. The import bill for Olive oil in 1996 was $115 and it is on the increase. Recent boost in the local industry have encouraged Australia to grow more olive trees and increase the production of Olive fruit and oil. The Australian Olive Association (AOA) was founded in 1995 to set and maintain quality standards for Australian products by implementing the Australian Code of Practice (ACP) and the Australian Standards for Olive Oil and Olive Pomace Oils.