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Sales of olive oil in shops in Spain drop as the price continues to soar
Retail

Sales of olive oil in shops in Spain drop as the price continues to soar

The persistent drought and poor prospects for the next harvest mean that the price is not expected to fall anytime soon

Matías Stuber

Malaga

Saturday, 2 September 2023, 08:10

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The price of olive oil is showing no sign of dropping any time soon as rainfall continues to be scarce across many parts of Spain, putting a strain on crops.

Although this is a tree that loves high temperatures, this year's weather has been too extreme for them, resulting in one of the poorest harvests in the past 20 years and a shortage of produce. But Spain has continued to maintain its world champion status as an olive oil exporter, giving reason to why the price of olive oil has soared so much.

The price per litre is close to or even more than ten euros. Some supermarkets have been forced to put security alarms on the bottles to act as a theft deterrent. The record prices are now making it difficult for many consumers, and supermarkets are already beginning to notice a change in buying habits.

General manager of Maskom, Sergio Cuberos, told SUR that, although olive oil is part of the Spanish culture, habits are changing due to prices that are hitting family's pockets, already struggling due to inflation. "We are at record prices that are causing consumption to fall. A litre bottle already costs what a good wine costs," he said.

Five-litre carafes, which require an outlay of around 50 euros, are selling less. "Where we have noticed an increase is in the purchase of three-litre carafes, which was a format that was hardly bought before," Cuberos said. "Consumers don't want to stop using olive oil altogether, but they are forced to reduce the impact it has on their shopping bill. Therefore, we can say that this is a phase of adaptation," he added.

What is behind such high prices?

Poor harvests is the main reason for the high prices. In the province of Malaga, barely 30,000 tonnes have been harvested, 48% less than the previous year. For a good harvest, abundant rainfall is necessary during the first months of the year so that the olive blossom can develop. Then, after the summer, in October and November at the latest, the olives need more water - but this has not happened this season.

Aurelio Martín, general manager of Costasol de Hipermercados, runs several Carrefour supermarkets in the province and told SUR the sudden rise in costs are having repercussions. "The purchases have gone down. The number of clients is the same, but purchases of olive oil have clearly gone down," he said.

Negative outlook

In more bad news for the consumer, there is no drop in prices in sight. Agricultural associations such as Asaja have already warned that expectations are no better for the 2023-24 harvest. Initial estimates point to a season similar to this year's, with no more than 30,000 tonnes expected.

According to the latest European Union forecasts, olive oil production has fallen by 54% across the country. The average price of extra virgin olive oil now stands at 9.42 euros, according to calculations by Spain's OCU consumers' organisation.

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