Despite the export record in 2020, the share remains very small.
More British consumers tasted Greek olive oil in 2020, with Greek exports benefiting from the pandemic, but remaining at very low levels compared to Spain and Italy. According to data from the London Office of Economic and Trade Affairs on the course of olive oil imports to the United Kingdom, in 2020 the country imported 28.5 thousand tonnes of extra virgin olive oil, worth 75.9 million pounds, recording a 21% increase in volume, but only 4.8% in value, compared to 2019.
This significant increase in import volume is explained by the fact that restrictive measures to address the pandemic have led to increased demand, as extra virgin olive oil seems to have gained ground in the minds of British consumers during the pandemic. Thus, all the first three olive producing countries supplying the United Kingdom (Italy, Spain and Greece) increased their export volume in 2020.
Italy, a leader in branded olive oils, now accounts for more than half of the market. Suffice it to say that Italian exports of extra virgin olive oil to Britain are 11.5 times higher in quantity compared to those of Greece (13.9 thousand tons compared to 1.2 thousand in Greece). While ten times compared to the Greek ones are the exports of Spain (12.2 thousand tons).
Spain, which dominates the private label olive oil sector with the lowest price, recorded the smallest increase in volume (6%), which in combination with the decrease in price compared to 2019, led to a decline in its share in value (36.2%). Greece remains third in the ranking and far from the first two, with a share of 5.6% and one of the most expensive products over time, despite the decline in the average price compared to 2019. Compared to the first two, Greece recorded the largest increase in exports both in quantity (43.3%) and value (30.2%).
According to the ISD Office, part of the increase in the Greek share reflects additional imports made to address the sudden shortage of products, not necessarily Greek, but Greek suppliers seem to have found themselves in an advantageous position due to immediate availability. As a result, more British consumers will try Greek olive oil in 2020, thus creating a dynamic that could be exploited by Greek exporters.
Positive picture in the first quarter of 2021
Compared to the first quarter of 2020, this year the corresponding period records a significant increase in imports of extra virgin olive oil, both in quantity (27.6%) and in value (33.1%). Among the top three, only Spain seems to be restricting its exports, Italy is consolidating its leading role, while Greece follows with a significant increase (43.7% in quantity and 35% in value), but always with low performance in absolute prices.
Of course, the comparison concerns a quarter in restricted conditions, that of 2021, with the corresponding period of 2020, where no pandemic status was recognized in the United Kingdom, as the first restriction was imposed on 24/3/2020. Therefore the performance recorded may not be confirmed during the year.