Skip to content Skip to footer

Spain continue to rise, a growth partially fuelled by exports

When one thinks of Spain, it’s hard for the mind not to wander towards a table filled with food. The country is home to some delicious and high-quality ingredients that are responsible for its reputation of outstanding cuisine. One ever-present element in Spanish gastronomy is olive oil.

Spain’s geography and climate are ideal for olive cultivation, a tradition that has overcome centuries of political, economic and social challenges until becoming a staple in the kitchen of the average family — both for cooking and dressing — and the essence of Mediterranean cuisine.

With more than 350 million olive trees growing olives all across Spain, especially in the South, where they dominate the amazing landscapes of some of Andalusia’s regions, there is never a lack of material to produce oil. That said, it would be a shame to keep it all for themselves. About 46 per cent of Spain’s olive oil ends up overseas, making it one of the world’s leading producers and exporters.

Today, as per data from Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, olive oil sales by volume and prices continue to rise, a growth partially fuelled by foreign business, for which demand has all but ceased.

In the 2019/20 crop year, sales reached 872,900 tons, eight per cent above the previous year and 17 per cent above the average of the previous four seasons. Out of this, 566,600 tons were exports.

The trend continues into the current crop year

Growth amid a pandemic: how’s that possible?

Conversations held between the US and the EU in March laid a favourable ground for the months to come. US President Joe Biden and European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen reached a temporary agreement concerning the 17-year-long Boeing/Airbus dispute over illegal subsidies to their respective aircraft manufacturers. Both the US (in 2020) and the EU (in 2019) were found guilty by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of respectively backing Boeing and Airbus.

Why does this matter? The battle led to the US imposing a tariff on goods including packaged olive oil, which faced a 25 per cent import duty, in October 2019. This, of course, was all but beneficial for Spain. Since the US represents one of the world’s most lucrative markets for the olive oil industry, the 25 per cent import duty affected olive oil produced and bottled in Spain.

The temporary freeze of the tariff in March led to immediate growth in international demand.

In June, both sides agreed to extend the suspension for five years, mainly to work together in countering China’s investment in the aircraft sector. This was an important step towards the normalisation of trade relations and the start of constructive negotiations for Spain, the wider bloc and the US.


One of the main reasons industries the world over are facing difficulties is the Covid-19 pandemic. For olive oil, things have gone differently. As with a range of other household products, olive oil consumption — nationally and abroad — has unsurprisingly increased during the several lockdowns that forced people to spend way more time at home than usual.

More time at home equalled more meals at home – a plus for local distribution and exports.

Likewise, the sudden spike in demand represented challenges for the global supply chain and the question arises whether the industry will be able to sustain these growth rates as lockdowns around the globe ease and restaurants begin to open up.

A Mediterranean race to the top

Even though olive oil consumption and imports from Spain to the US are in line with the upward trend of the previous three decades, estimates for the 2020/21 crop year fell from the previous year. For the first time since 2014/15, Italian olive exports to the US exceeded shipments from Spain.

The most powerful development, however, was seen in Tunisia. Exports to the US grew from 20,748 tons to 85,905 tons from 2018/2019 to 2019/2020, cementing the country as the third major olive oil exporter to the US.

Spanish exports to the US, meanwhile, fell about one-third from crop year to crop year.

Jointly, the three top exporters represent 77.3 per cent of all US olive oil imports, with Spain still in a solid position.

Método 1:

But where else other than the US is Spanish olive oil going? In total, to more than 180 countries. The largest importers are Italy, Portugal, the UK, Japan and France.

China, Australia, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea and Russia are also significant customers. In 2019, Japan’s and China’s imports grew 35 per cent and 47 per cent respectively, making them fundamental markets for Spain.

According to ASOLIVA, the Spanish Olive Oil & Pomace Olive Oil Exporters Association, most of Spain’s olive oil comes from Andalusia (80%), followed by Castile-La Mancha (8%), Extremadura (5%), and Catalonia (3%).

Método 2:

It’s not only olive oil, though, that makes it through the Spanish borders in large batches. Let’s talk pork. Yet it doesn’t sound glamorous, it’s what makes the beloved and renowned Ibérico ham.

In 2020, record-level exports to China led Spanish pork exports to grow by 11 per cent.

Last year, according to EuroTier, Spain exported 933,940 tonnes of pork there – three times more than in 2019 with 381,629 tonnes, making it one of the biggest players exporting pork to China, which is the world’s top producer. 18 per cent of Spanish pork production was shipped to China in the first semester of 2020.

Do you want to grow
your international business?

Do you want to
grow your
international business?

Contact our team

Leave a comment

Go to Top