Olive oil production world-wide

Source: European Commission

Olive trees have been grown for olives and olive oil since ancient times. At the time of the Roman Empire olive-growing was practised throughout the Mediterranean; nowadays, with 98% of the world's olive trees, the area around the Mediterranean accounts for the bulk of world olive oil production.

There are currently several categories of olive oil on the market. Virgin oils, which are extracted mechanically, direct from the olives, comprise the "extra virgin" and "virgin“ classes of olive oil - ready for consumption - and lampante olive oil, which has to be refined. "Composed" olive oil is a blend of refined and "virgin" or "extra virgin" olive oil.


Wide fluctuations in production are a feature of olive-growing. They are linked to the uncertainties of the climate (viz. drought in Spain in 1995/96 and frost in Greece in 2001/02) and alternate bearing, a characteristic of olive trees whereby bumper crops tend to be followed by lower production the following year.

The Community is the dominant player on the olive oil market. Until 1981 its 425 000 tonnes accounted for only one third of world production and it was a net importer. In 1981, after the accession of Greece, Community production went up by about 300 000 tonnes to about half the total for the world as a whole. In 1986, after Spain and Portugal joined, the EC became the market reference, averaging 80% of world production. The 1990s saw a rapid rise in production in the Community as a result of increases in acreages and yields. Compared with harvests in the early 1990s the average production for the last three marketing years doubled in Spain, while Italy and Greece recorded increases of 16% and 18% respectively.


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