Bottles of olive oil and sunflower oil in a Mercadona SA supermarket in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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Olive oil prices rose to new records as severe droughts in key producing countries tightened supplies – and drove up cooking oil thefts.

According to a recent report from the US Department of Agriculture, global olive oil prices rose to $8,900 per ton in September due to “extremely dry weather” in the Mediterranean. The average price in August was already 130% higher than a year earlier and showed “no signs of easing,” the USDA said.

Spain, the world’s largest producer and exporter of olive oil, has been hit by an intense drought for months. The country also just recorded its third warmest summer, with the average summer temperature 1.3°C above normal, according to state weather agency AEMET.

To make matters worse, Turkey has decided to suspend exports of large quantities of olive oil. The suspension has worsened already limited quantities in Spain.

Kyle Holland

Oilseed and Vegetable Oil Analyst at Mintec

According to commodity market intelligence firm Mintec, Spanish olive oil production fell to around 610,000 tonnes last season – a drop of more than 50% compared to the usual 1.3 to 1.5 million tonnes.

“Adding to the complexity of the situation are concerns about reduced production in other major European olive oil producing countries, including Italy and Greece, where drought conditions prevail,” Kyle Holland, oilseeds and vegetable oils analyst at Mintec, told CNBC.

According to the International Olive Council, an intergovernmental organization whose members account for more than 98% of global olive production, Greece and Italy are the second and third largest olive oil producers.

Olive oil thieves

Olive oil prices in Spain’s Andalusia rose to €8.45 ($9.02) per kilogram in September, Mintec’s benchmark showed. Based on the company’s data over a period of 20 to 30 years, this represents the “highest price ever recorded for Spanish olive oil” and represents a 111% increase compared to the previous year.

Rising prices for what is sometimes called “liquid gold” have led some to steal it.

According to local media reports, about 50,000 liters of extra virgin olive oil were stolen from one of Spain’s oil mills, Marin Serrano El Lagar, in the early hours of August 30. That’s olive oil worth more than 420,000 euros, or about $450,000, that the family business lost. So far there have been no arrests.

That’s not all.

Shortly before, thieves stole 6,000 liters of extra virgin olive oil worth 50,000 euros from the Terraverne oil mill, Spanish newspaper El Munco reported. The company’s computers, tables, fans and chairs were also reportedly looted in the raid.

The companies in question did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

When will it end?

And there is no respite in sight.

Mintec’s Holland warned that supplies could be depleted before October if the drought continues to deplete olive oil supplies, which is where fresh harvests typically arrive.

“A further complication is Turkey’s decision to suspend exports of large quantities of olive oil,” the analyst said. “The suspension has made the already limited quantities in Spain even worse.”

Turkey, which is also a major olive oil producer, has suspended bulk exports until November 1, a move attributed to the rise in global prices.

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