harvested olives pouring from a crate

With several estimates for the 2018/19 harvest year’s worldwide olive oil production published recently, a comparison is useful. Expectations range from 3.1 to 3.451 million metric tons. There is agreement on an overall reduction compared to last year, but Spain and Morocco seem to buck the trend, so that a scarcity of olive oil is not anticipated. 

Writing for Olive Oil Times, Danielle Pacheco reports that “the latest figures” from the International Olive Council indicate “worldwide olive oil production for the 2018/19 season is expected to reach 3.451 million [metric] tons, down slightly from 3.653 million tons in the 2017/18 harvesting season.” On the other hand, Mercacei notes that University of Jaén professor and consultant Juan Vilar expects 3.1 million tons worldwide this year

Even this lower figure, according to Mercacei and the findings of an EAE Business School study, is only “approximately 5.5% less than the previous season's, which was 3.31 million tons” by one estimate. According to this study, the decrease is not a cause for concern, since there are also stocks left over from last year to compensate for the reduction.

More specifically, reporting on “the latest estimates released by the European Commission,” Danielle Pacheco offers the highest recent forecasts: “Spanish olive oil production is projected to reach 1.76 million tons in the 2018/19 season, up from 1.39 million tons the preceding season.” According to this article, 226,000 tons is expected from Italy--less than half of the previous year’s production, and less than Greece’s projected 248,000 tons (itself a 35% drop since last year for Greece). Problems in Italy are attributed to climate change and a Xylella fastidiosa infestation in some olive groves in the east.

Writing in Olivenews.gr, Vassilis Zampounis shares “the official information from the Spanish Ministry,” which indicates a disappointingly low level of olive oil production in December due to “continuous and intense rainfalls.” Zampounis therefore predicts that Spanish production for this crop year “will probably be limited to around 1.6 million tons.”

Nikos Michelakis, scientific advisor to the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities in Greece, reports on data from ASSITOL, the Italian olive oil industry association, which anticipates 200,000 metric tons of olive oil from Italy (rather than the 265,000 expected earlier), 190,000 from Greece, and 1,450,000 from Spain (instead of the 1,600,000 previously called for—or more, by other accounts). 

In the most detailed recent article on this topic that I’ve seen, Mercacei shares estimates from “international consultants and experts from the olive oil sector.” Olio Officina director Luigi Caricato now forecasts just 170,000 metric tons from Italy, reduced from 200-250,000, while “operators with real market control are more drastic and calculate the total production of Italy at around 150,000 tons.” Broker Luigino Mazzei now predicts 170,000 tons from Greece, down from earlier expectations of 220,000 because of problems with the olive fly and fungal diseases. Juan Vilar expects Spain to produce 1.6 million tons. Noureddine Ouazzani, director of Agro-pôle Olivier, anticipates a surprising 200,000 to 220,000 tons of olive oil from Morocco, a noteworthy increase over last year.

Uncertainties about how the weather will affect the olives not yet harvested, as well as the harvest itself, and how much oil the fruit will yield, help account for differences between production estimates. Spain is anticipated to produce from 1.45 to 1.76 million tons, Italy anywhere from 150,000 to 226,000 tons, and Greece 170,000 to 248,000 tons, meaning that one projection of 200,000 to 220,000 tons of olive oil from Morocco could make it the producer of the second largest quantity of olive oil in the world this year—although that spot is currently in contention.
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Thanks to Canadian photographer Alan Martin for the introductory photo of a man emptying a crate of olives into a hopper at a Cretan mill, and thanks to Eleni Zotou of Golden Tree for the top of page photo of harvested olives pouring out of a crate.

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