Highlights

Italy is the second largest olive oil producer in the European Union (EU) after Spain and accounts for approximately one-quarter of the EU-28 olive acreage. Italy’s marketing year (MY) 2016/17 olive oil production is estimated at approximately 200,000 metric tons (MT), a 58 percent drop from the previous abundant campaign (475,000 MT) due to sudden alternations of hot, cold, and rainy weather that affected the Italian peninsula throughout the year, combined with the olive fruit fly attack in September. Overall, quality is good.

Production

Italy is the second largest olive oil producer in the European Union (EU) after Spain and accounts for approximately one-quarter of the EU-28 olive acreage. Italy’s marketing year (MY) 2016/17 olive oil production is estimated at approximately 200,000 metric tons (MT), a 58 percent drop from the previous abundant campaign (475,000 MT) due to sudden alternations of hot, cold, and rainy weather that affected the Italian peninsula throughout the year, combined with the olive fruit fly attack in September. Overall, quality is reported to be good.

There are approximately 700,000 olive farms in Italy organized in 700 certified production chains, cultivating 1.1 million hectares (ha) of land and more than 250 million olive trees. Puglia and Calabria cover 68 percent of Italian olive oil production. The remainder of production is in the regions of Sicilia (8 percent), Campania (6 percent), Abruzzo (4 percent), Lazio (4 percent), Toscana (3 percent), and Umbria (2 percent). Thanks to approximately 538 different olive varieties, Italy is able to express many different flavors and fragrances that make the country a unique and exclusive olive grove. Leading olive varieties include Ogliarola, Coratina, Cima, and Cellina in Puglia; Taggiasca and Lavagnina in Liguria; Frantoio in Toscana; Casaliva by the Garda Lake; Moraioloin Umbria;Carboncellain the area of Sabina mountains (Lazio);Gentilein Abruzzo;Rotondellain Campania;Caroleain Calabria;Nocellara del Belicein Sicili; andBosanain Sardegna.

Nearly 60 percent of Italian olive oil production is extra virgin. Olive trees are slow to grow, taking four or five years to yield their first fruits and another 10 to 15 to reach their full capacity. Olive harvest occurs from October to December. Olives are mostly handpicked and the crop is pressed on the day of picking. This helps differentiate the Italian product by contributing to quality, but raises costs by limiting economies of scale.

Consumption

With approximately 11 liters per capita per year, Italy is a leading olive oil consumer. More than 80 percent of consumption is extra virgin. Household penetration of olive oil is 90 percent, while the remainder goes to canning and cosmetics industries. Traditional distribution channels where consumers purchase olive oil directly from producers account for one-fifth of Italian production. Local consumers generally focus on perceived quality rather than price in making their purchasing decisions. Product differentiation is important in Italy, with customers increasingly interested in Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs), Protected Geographical Indicators (PGIs), and organic certifications.

Trade

Italy’s MY 2015/16 olive oil imports (550,821 MT) decreased by 11.7 percent from MY 2014/15, mainly due to reduced volumes from Tunisia (-58 percent) and Spain (-6 percent). A significant share of imported oil is blended and bottled in Italy for export, although a certain quantity of imports is used for domestic consumption. Italy’s MY 2015/16 olive oil exports reached 390,803 MT, 8 percent more than MY 2014/15, mainly due to increased volumes to Canada (+36 percent), Spain (+20 percent), the United States (+9 percent), and Japan (+3 percent).