evening light on olives and olive leaves on a tree against a blue sky

The first estimates of the amount of olive oil to be produced by the major olive oil producing nations in the next crop year (October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018) were published recently. While there is naturally some disagreement, and it is early to make predictions, a significant increase over this year’s olive oil production levels seems likely.

Writing on the English page of his Greek online paper Olive News, Vassilis Zampounis described his expectations for production in the upcoming olive crop year “compared to the current year’s production in the 8 leading olive oil producers that make up to 90% of the world olive oil production.” Including a chart comparing last year’s production with this year’s estimates (in metric tons), Zampounis explained, “the average expected increase for 2017/18 is 405,000 tons or 18.6%. In the case of the highest expected production,” which he estimates at 2,730,000 tons, “the increase will reach 555,000 tons (+25.5%). In the lowest production scenario,” or 2,430,000 tons, “the total increase will be 255,000 tons (11.7%).” Zampounis is both the editor of Olivenenews.gr and the director of the Society of Olive and Olive Oil Products of Certified Quality (EL3P). 

The Spanish magazine Mercacei reported on the “the forecast by Álvaro Olavarría, Managing Director of Oleoestepa,” a large cooperative, with an emphasis on the world’s largest olive oil producer, Spain, and the prediction that it will produce “1,250,000 tons in the 2017/18 season compared to 1,281,950 tons in the previous one.” Providing a chart with information about the top 8 olive oil producing nations dating back to the 2013/14 harvest year, Mercacei added, “olive oil production in the main producing countries will reach a total of 2,745,000 tons, increasing by 11% over the 2016/17 season, according to these forecasts.”

Spanish language publications are now sharing the international estimates of Juan Vilar, strategic consultant and professor at the University of Jaén, and Jorge Pereira, Professor at the University of the Republic of Uruguay, who expect the next olive oil campaign to produce a total of 2.827 million tons, for a 5% increase over the current crop year according to their calculations. Olivenews.gr published a Greek version of the report, along with Vilar and Pereira’s table featuring estimates in Spanish with data from the 57 olive oil producing countries that make up 93 percent of the world’s production. This table forecasts 1.2 million tons of olive oil from Spain, 290,000 from Tunisia, 280,000 from Italy, 265,000 from Greece, 200,000 from Turkey, together anticipated to be the producers of almost 80% of the world’s olive oil next year, assuming the weather cooperates.

Teatro Naturale weighed in, only in Italian so far, with a comparison of the estimates of Mercacei, Olive News, and its own June 2 and updated estimates, suggesting the other sources may overestimate Italy’s likely production level. Reproducing the charts from Mercacei and Olive News, Teatro Naturale added a third which compares these three sources’ estimates with its own earlier forecast, commenting that there is “a degree of uniformity in the data, with the exception of Tunisia and Turkey.” (That is true of Vilar and Pereira’s predictions, as well, which call for considerably more olive oil from Turkey than the other sources.) Teatro Naturale proceeded to update its own expectations (leaving its chart a bit outdated), now estimating 1,150,000 metric tons of olive oil production in Spain, 250,000 in Italy, 250,000 in Greece, 200,000 in Tunisia, 90,000 in Morocco, 100,000 in Portugal, and 220,000 in Turkey, with Syria a big question mark given the war. Their conclusion is an estimate of 2.3 million metric tons from the Mediterranean and 2.4 million tons total, worldwide.  

Interestingly, Vassilis Zampounis’s low and high estimates of 2.43 to 2.73 million metric tons from the main producing nations is quite close to Teatro Naturale’s low expectation of 2.3 million tons and Mercacei’s higher prediction of 2.745 million tons. (Note that this does leave out the minor producers, so that the total would be expected to be higher worldwide—as Vilar and Pereira’s forecast of 2.827 million tons globally also suggests.) There is more disagreement over the percent increase compared to the current crop year (2016/17), which may relate to differing calculations of this year’s production totals as well as next year's. Teatro Naturale does not offer a percentage. Vilar and Pereira estimate just a 5% increase, while Mercacei expects 11% more olive oil in the coming crop year, and Zampounis anticipates at least that much, and up to 25.5% more than last year.

In spite of the variations in the estimates and the early date, months before the earliest harvests begin in Greece in October, Zampounis told Greek Liquid Gold that as long as they are timely, relevant, and precise, “predictions are always useful, because they inform those involved in the market: producers, olive mill owners, merchants, bottlers. Transparency helps healthy competition. If, for example, there is surplus offer, then the logical thing to expect will be a decline of prices. In case of scarcity, prices will rise.” He especially respects “the Spanish ministry of agriculture and the interprofessional organizations of that country” as “models of information and transparency.”

Zampounis explains that predictions “can have an important influence on the prices,” and hence on “the decision whether to sell stock or keep more products in stock.” Although Zampounis has some reservations about making price predictions at this point, he informed Greek Liquid Gold that he suspects that “until the fresh olive oils hit the market (end of November, December) the prices will be stable, with some possible outbursts of price hikes due to demand for certain special qualities, etc. Starting in January 2018, prices will probably be moving normally (maybe with a small decline), influenced by other factors such as sales trends.”

Zampounis also cautioned that “the data must be monitored closely,” since “there is always the chance of unexpected weather conditions, especially in the era of climate change.” Given the need for careful monitoring, “the role of experienced professionals and agronomists who are on the spot and closely monitoring the olive groves is key.” Stay tuned for updates as they appear.

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Update, October 2017: for more recent estimates for the 2017/18 crop year, see Vassilis Zampounis's Re-estimating 2017/18 olive oil production (September 22) and Mercacei's The IOC expects World Production of Olive Oil to increase by 12% in the 2017/18 Marketing Year (October 5).

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