ECONOMY

Big scope for growth of Greek olive oil exports

Most of Greek and Spanish olive oil exports reach global markets through Italy, where the product is packaged and standardized, gaining considerable surplus value. This was the main finding of a study by the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEVE). «Greek virgin olive oil is a rough and unutilized diamond for the Greek economy,» SEVE says in its study. While in 2003 Greece exported minimal quantities of olive oil to the world’s best markets, it exported 186 million euros’ worth of olive oil to Italy, i.e. some 79 percent of Greek olive oil exports. Most of this could have been exported directly from Greece to its final destinations, as it is not consumed in Italy but re-exported (as Italian, and only sometimes as Greek). Exports to other countries may have shown a steady rise in the last five years (38 percent in the US, 106 percent in Canada, 99 percent in Australia, 116 percent in Switzerland, 72 percent in France), but SEVE notes this is only nominal as the quantities are too small to be considered as important as the percentages signify, and trail the respective increase in total olive oil imports in these countries. For Greece’s economy the product’s export is nine times more important than for Italy’s, proportionate to the total of exports, and three times more important than for Spain’s. SEVE adds that preference for olive oil has recently increased in the West and Japan, as more and more are convinced of its superiority over other fats for its effect on health. Virgin olive oil imports show a large increase between 1999 and 2003 in proportion to the total of vegetable fat imports: 59 percent in Canada, 49 percent in the US and Japan, and 31 percent in France. These four countries, along with the UK and Switzerland, should be the prime exporting targets, while other markets to penetrate could be Portugal, South Korea and China, the study suggests. In order to promote Greek olive oil better, SEVE recommends that the packaging and total presence on shelves be improved, that a general picture for all Greek products be cultivated by using a catchphrase such as «Naturally Greek» which SEVE proposed years ago, that the olive-oil-producing regions of Greece be highlighted and promoted, and that bigger producers proceed to their own standardization, name and label.