The cultivation of olive trees represents one of the main branches of the Italian agriculture among the most developed agricultural sectors worldwide. To realize the importance of olive growing for the world economy, just consider that it is practiced in 58 countries and that the hectares of olive trees on the planet are more than 11 million. Furthermore, extra virgin olive oil and table olives are distributed and consumed in almost 180 countries. This sector employs more than 35 million people and has a turnover between 9.5 and 13.5 million euros per year (according to the latest data collected by the “International Olive Growing – Worldwide Analysis and Summary” research by the Spanish company Juan Vilar Consultores Estratégicos and then reported by Gambero Rosso).
The olive sector, however, lives on trends and development cycles that are influenced by numerous environmental, political, economic and social factors.
Which are the main olive growing trends to analyze?
The situation in Italy
Italy boasts a centuries-old tradition in the cultivation of olive trees and in the production of EVO oil. The business has its roots in ancient times and, despite being permeated by technological innovations, it is still carried out with craftsmanship handed down from generation to generation and is a real “art”.
Furthermore, the excellent quality of Italian oil is appreciated all over the world and contributes to make the olive sector a fundamental element of the national economy. There are more than one million hectares planted with olive trees and it is estimated that the plants grown in Italy are about 150 million. In addition, more than 5 million quintals of oil are produced every year, the result of an activity that is distributed in almost all the Italian regions.
In the ranking of the world olive oil producers, Italy had recently lost some positions, but thanks to the 2021-2022 season it regained a deserved second place (data from Unaprol, Italian Olive Consortium, based on official estimates of the International Olive Oil Council).
Italy has, in fact, increased its productivity by 15% compared to the previous season, reaching 315,000 tons per year, although it is still much lower than the record in the ’91 -92 season with 674,000 tons of harvested olives. The data suggest an urgent need: that of increasing the production of Made in Italy oil to counter the decline of the recent decades and be able to keep pace with other countries.
A look at Europe
Europe confirms itself as the leader in the olive production sector. In fact, it represents the 71% of the world turnover and records more than 40% of the total employment, with about 160,000 agricultural enterprises. In addition to Italy, other member countries of the European Union, such as Spain, France, Portugal, or Slovenia, also favor these results.
Spain remains the undisputed queen of the European market, with the record percentage of 70% of olives. The 2021-2022 season brought the country a 6.4% decrease compared to the previous year, although production still stood at 1.3 million tons (Unaprol data). Greece also closed the season down by 18.2%, reaching the 5th place in the world rankings, overtaken by Turkey and Tunisia. Portugal, on the other hand, has a 20% growth.
Among the well-established trends, which will also prevail in the next seasons of olive production, there is the increased export of European countries to the whole world to the United States.
And what about the world?
The ever-growing demand for extra virgin olive oil and table olives leads to the clear need to increase their production by planting more and more olive trees and creating a lot of super-intensive olive groves. In any case, the traditional cultivation form is still the most widespread (61%), followed by the intensive (19%) and by the high-density one (10%). The percentage difference between table olives and those for the transformation into oil will remain unchanged in the coming years: about 13% the former and 86% the latter (according to the data of the International Olive Growing – Worldwide Analysis and Summary).
In the 2021-2022 season Tunisia and Turkey respectively recorded + 71.4% (with 240,000 tons of harvested olives) and + 8.3% (228,000 tons). Among the African countries, Morocco managed to increase
Between digital and technology
Among the most significant changes in this sector there are certainly also those concerning technological innovation and digital transformation. Olive farms are going through a delicate moment of transition from traditional management models to a more modern mechanization. Although keeping up with the times is essential, these changes are not fluid and easy to implement especially for the smallest farms.
Cultivation strategies and harvesting and pruning tools have improved a lot. Dealers and end users are increasingly technically prepared, informed and digitized.
Campagnola has always set itself the goal of immediately catching the trends and the most interesting technological innovations in this sector, to transform them into performing tools that can concretely facilitate the work of olive growers, in Italy and all around the world.
As always, we are ready to follow the next evolution of the market and to accompany you into the future of this complex and fascinating sector.