The olive tree forms the significant plant species of the Mediterranean ecosystem and an important source of energy for the humans. The products produced from the oil cultivation, olive oil and edible olives are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. The olive production is mainly identified in the European countries, where there are 86 million acres with olive trees, 92% of them produce olive oil and 8% edible olives. Almost 85% of the world olive oil production (about 2.5 millions tones per year) as shown in Fig.1 .
Fig.1 .Distribution of world olive oil production (source www.fao.org).
The greatest European production is gathered in the basin of the Mediterranean. Spain and Italy occupy the two first places, Greece is the third country in global level with a percentage of production 13%, which corresponds to 300.000 till 400.000 tones depending on the prevailing conditions of the olive year. In Fig.2 is depicted the percentage distribution of olive oil production between the Mediterranean Countries.
Fig 2. Global olive oil and olive production oil.
The olive oil industry is traditionally a major sector of the economy of the olive oil productive countries and also one of the rapidly growing agri-food industries today, as the olive oil and mainly the edible olives become part of the everyday diet in more and more European - and not only - Countries and their demand has doubled during the last twenty years.
The world production of olives following the growing demand, increases by an average of 11% annually since 1995 and this increase is a positive economic develop in the context of the desired growth, as the primary agricultural holdings and of the olive trees are in the less developed area of southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin.
The olive sector today is an important branch of the Greek economy as the olive sector is mainly engaged in supplementary employment more than 450.000 rural families mainly in less favored semi-mountainous areas, contributing decisively to the sustainability, viability of these regions, in maintaining social cohesion to them, as well as to the protection of the soil from erosion and the maintenance of the natural landscape.
The olive cultivation covers the 20% of the agricultural land used in the country.
The participation of olive oil in the G.D.P varies from 7,5% -10% annually, (according to the yields of each olive-growing year olive oil).
The value of the domestic olive oil production is valued around 800 million Euros (depending on the yields of the olive oil period) contributing the 0,3% of the G.D.P (against 0,2% of the Spanish industry in the Spanish G.D.P and 0,1% of the Italian accordingly).
Its contribution to total exports corresponds to 1,5% and it covers the 11% of the total agricultural production in Greece in terms of economic value (against 2% in Europe).
It is a basic ingredient of the nutrition of the Greeks, as the country consumes the greatest quantity per capita of olive oil at international level, with the average Greek to consume 18 kilos annually, while Spain follows with 13 kilos consumption per capita annually.
Corresponds to 4,2% of the total expenditure for food , while if self-production consumption is taken into account, the corresponding percentage is estimated more than 5,5% .
Data of production and export of olive oil at country level.
Olive oil is considered to be a national product, while Greece is the third country in the world after Spain and Italy, with cultivated land up to 7,55 million acres, as it is in the first place for the production of virgin oil.
Peloponnese and Crete are the most important olive oil production areas of the country, participating with a percentage of 35,4% and 40% in the annual oil production.
In the region of Western Greece, there is a production of 50.000 tons of olive oil, while in the region of Achaia correspond 10.000 tons.
From the yearly produced quantity of the 300.000-400.000 tons, the greatest percentage is used in the internal market which is considered to be the greatest percentage of self-consumption globally, although oil consumption due to the economic crisis and the differentiation of the dietary habits has fallen to 16 kilos per capita annually in 2014, from 20 kilos it was in 1990. From the total olive oil production only 27% comes at the stage of standardization in Greece, against of 50% in Spain and 80% in Italy.
Exports of olive oil annually come up to 115.000 tons (on the basis of the three-year average 2010-2013). Of them only 35.000 tons are exported as standardized product, while 80.000 tons are exported to Italy in bulk form, a fact that causes a significant loss of profit from the added value attributable to the standardized product.
As evidenced both by the available data and by the relevant studies, the Greek branded olive oil, has not a satisfactory brand presence in foreign markets.
Italians usually hold the first place, the Spanish follows with rising tides.
An important element for the sector’s further growth potential, is the fact that 27 types of olive oil of the domestic production have been classified as P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin) or P.G.I.(Protected Geographical Indication).
It is worth noting that the quality of the Greek olive oil is estimated to be superior to all other olive oil producing countries due to terrestrial and climatic conditions, with the 80% of the Greek olive oil to be ranked as ‘’extra virgin’’, while the corresponding percentage in Italy is 65% and 30% in Spain. This high quality is an advantage of the product which does not however mention the expected added value as the highest percentage is not standardized and it is sold in bulk.
The extra quality of Greek Virgin olive oil that is exported is 72% of the total percentage. Italy only absorbs 73% of the exported virgin oil.
It is noted that the Italian companies of standardized olive oil, mix the Greek olive oil they import with theirs and they promote it standardized through their expanded distribution and promotion networks.