The ancient olive production originated in the Near East around Mediterranean area, particularly Iberia, where it was introduced by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. Olive oil production peaked at the height of the prosperous Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the occupation of Arabs in the Southern Spain led to new techniques and other varieties in the cultivation of olive. Spain is the largest producer of olive to date. Olive is grown in small trees, mostly 8 to 15 meters. The plant is widely renowned for its health benefits, and its oil is widely used for cooking purposes. The leading olive producing countries are include,
Spain produces 5,276,899 metric tons of olive annually. Production of olive in Spain is mainly concentrated around the Andalucian region where about 75% of the total olive production in Spain is obtained. Major production provinces in this region are Jaén and Córdoba. The main varieties produced in the Andalucian region are Hojiblanca, Picudo, Picual, Lechin, and Verdial. About 14% of Spain’s olive production is done in the Castilla-La Mancha region which produces the Cornicabra variety of olive. Other olive producing regions are Extremadura, Catalonia, and Valencia. Olive oil is extracted from olives, and it is widely used for cooking purposes such as frying, baking and steaming in Spain. Spain’s main international olive markets are in the US, UK, France, Australia, Portugal, and Italy.
Italy is the second largest olive producing country and produces 3,220,674 metric tons annually. The Southern region produces nearly 80% of Italy’s olive. Major production areas are in Sicily, Puglia, Calabria, Sardinia and Basilicata. These areas have relatively warm temperatures, suitable for olive cultivation. Olive oil mills in Italy have acquired the specialty of blending different extracts of various varieties of olive oils to produce high-quality brands. The country’s olive has both domestic and international markets. Major foreign markets are US, Austria, Brazil, Canada, and China.
Greece produces 2,232,412 metric tons of olive annually. Nearly 60% of cultivated land in Greece is used for olive production. Approximately 65% of olive oil production in the country is done in the Peloponnese region followed by Crete and the Aegean and Ionian Islands. The Korone area in Messenia, Peloponnese, produces the highly sought olive, Koroneiki which is famed for its top aromatic qualities. Of the total olive oil production in Greece, about 80% produced is extra virgin. Greek olive oil mills are over 2800 which extract olive oil only from native olives. Nearly half of olive oil is exported while the rest is domestically used, mainly for cooking purposes. The Largest export markets for olive from Greece are in the European Union, notably Italy. Other markets have been steadily growing in countries such as Canada, US, Australia, China, and Japan.
Turkey produces 1,292,072 metric tons of olive annually. Most of the olive production in Turkey is concentrated on the coastal area along the Aegean Sea. Turkey has different olive varieties, notably the Ayvalik variety. Turkey exports surplus table olives as well as olive oil extracted in over 500 mills present in the country. Turkey has incorporated technology in olive production and extraction to produce high-quality brands. Turkey’s olive has major markets in Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. The US and Japan are also importers of Turkey’s olive.
Other Leading Olive Producers
Other leading olive producing countries by annual metric tons are Morocco (745,019), Syria (730,692), Egypt (332,321), Portugal (325,938) and Algeria (299,404). A global production trend of olive has been on the rise and the countries that were previously importers of the product, such as the US, Chile, China and Australia are now producing. Native olive varieties in some countries such as the Koroneiki in Greece have been spreading into other nations and are projected to affect future olive production trends
Leading Olive Producing Countries
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