Where is the Spanish Olive Oil?

superintensive-olive-harvestProduction of olive oil in Spain was 1.5 million tons last harvest while in Italy it was 480,000 tons.

Why do I never see Spanish olive oil in the market? Do you see Spanish olive oil in your market?

I wonder why all the labels I see seem to be from Italy. I was also wondering how it is possible they are able to produce so much olive oil in Spain. I learned that they have super intensive cultivations which increases the productivity of olive groves. Moreover, the trees are planted very close to each other. On average, in the space where in Italy there is one tree, in Spain there are 10 (short) trees. This way, the harvest can be (and is) done with machines, not with humans.

What happens to the quality of the oil? Experts tell me the quality is lower because: the nutrients of the soil are used by 10 instead of 1 tree; the trees are so low and so close to each other, the olives do not get enough sun. Interesting.

Join the Conversation

  1. Lorenzo Contini says:

    Really interesting article ! I spent more than one year living in Madrid. Generally speaking Spanish cuisine is good, some dishes are delicious others are just let’s say “on average”. Spanish food, like Italian food, is completely based on olive oil and talking about olive production, Spain is the worldwide leader.

    The olive oil region is Andalusia where there is a good ground to cultivate olive trees and it’s quite a sunny place. Despite million tons produced in Spain, in the worldwide food market we don’t see very often Spanish olive oil on shelves, it’s true. Why? I honestly don’t know, in my opinion quality is lower than Italian one but still a good quality. The production process is pretty different, probably intensive cultivation, as often happens, doesn’t go hand in hand with quality. Or just Spanish olive oil doesn’t’ meet international consumers’ taste?

    As I said before, Spanish cuisine is not bad at all, but the question is, except for an awesome “jamon” (ham), do you see any Spanish food in the international food market? Any thoughts?

    To me, Italian olive oil has no comparison!



    1. Danielle @Gustiamo Author says:

      Grazie Lorenzo! Spain definitely has a beautiful culinary tradition. The global olive oil situation is extremely frustrating, I think we are all trying to make sense of it! Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there is a lot of beautiful Spanish oil being produced and labeled truthfully… but I guess, one of my personal fears is that American consumers eat a lot more Spanish olive oil then we think, labeled as Italian.

      1. And this deceitful Spanish olive oil labeled as Italian is also of very low quality =(

  2. Lorenzo Contini says:

    Spanish olive oil labeled as Italian sounds horrible ! But it’s a possible reason we don’t see it on international food market. It could be interesting to look into this issue.

    Anyway, i’ll keep buying just Italian top quality olive oil ! Colour and taste are unique!


  3. carol@flavorsofrome.com says:

    Although Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world, most doesn’t come close to top quality Italian olive oil. Why? Partly because of agribusiness: vast Spanish olive groves are largely owned by giant co-ops who sell to mass-market producers (as well as to Italian olive oil producers) who lack the sense of pride and emotional attachment that comes from single-estate family run farms. Some changes are occurring in Spain though. Some Spanish producers are returning to the single estate concept, focusing on small harvests and high-quality production standards. Maybe it all goes back to the olive oil culture being different in Spain from that of Italy – Italians have a few millennia behind them of being obsessively attached to the food they produce. That’s a good thing!

  4. In addiction to this Spain collects olive too earlier than normal, thats why spanish olive oil doesn’t smell and taste so beautiful like italian olive oil!

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