US consumption and production of olive oil

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American consumption of olive oil has been rising steadily for decades, especially since consumers have become informed about the benefits of Mediterranean-inspired diets.

Swapping olive oil for butter is widely recognized as a way to make various snacks and meals healthier; the oil has no cholesterol, is high in monounsaturated fat, and contains antioxidants.

Olive oil also beats other traditional cooking oils (such as soybean, palm, and peanut oils) on many of those points, and in this regard, too: only the Mediterranean’s “liquid gold” has been linked to lowering the risk of diseases from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s.

No wonder the worldwide olive oil market is worth $11 billion. And while global production of the stuff has more than doubled since 1990, from 1.5 million metric tons (tonnes) to over 3 million, US imports of it have tripled.

US consumption of olive oil has tripled since 1990. In 2012, 98 percent of it was imported.
A recent study by agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis, suggests that America’s love affair with olive oil has arrived at a turning point.

The US has always imported most of its olive oil from Italy and Spain; imports from Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey have helped meet the rising demand. Now, though, American enthusiasm for olive oil is so great that the US is uniquely positioned to change the future of the global olive oil industry—perhaps by encouraging competition from other countries such as Australia, Argentina, and Chile, and perhaps by emerging as a competing producer itself.

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