European Union (EU) officials expect olive oil consumption to rise in the region due to increased awareness of its health benefits and reduced consumption of other edible oils, Olive Oil Times wrote.

In the bloc’s 2022-2032 medium-term outlook, the EU agriculture and rural development department also analysed how the growth of the olive oil market would impact competing vegetable oil markets, the 13 December report said.

“Olive oil is expected to increasingly replace vegetable oils in food consumption particularly outside the main producing countries, driven by a healthy image of olive oil, and an increasing popularity of the various Mediterranean cuisines,” the outlook said.

“This trend is expected to contribute to the decline in demand for vegetable oils and to affect butter consumption, especially in home cooking and food services.”

The report also forecast that growing demand for olive oil would continue to drive the expansion of olive growing in the main producing countries.

“Among other types of agricultural land, the area of olives for oil is expected to increase in line with previous trends (to reach close to 5M ha in 2032), with more areas to be covered by irrigated intensive systems, especially in Spain and Portugal, or to be converted to organic and quality systems, especially in Italy and Greece,” the outlook said.

According to International Olive Council data, there has been a sharp rise in olive oil consumption in most European countries over the past three decades.

Germany’s consumption increased from 9,800 tonnes in the 1991/92 crop year to an estimated 76,900 tonnes or in 2021/22, the report said, with consumption in the Netherlands increasing from 1,500 tonnes to 9,600 tonnes in the same period.

Many other EU countries with little or no history of consuming olive oil had also seen consumption rise significantly since 1991/92, Olive Oil Times wrote, with, for example, consumption in Poland increasing from 3,200 tonnes in 2003/04 to 12,000 tonnes in 2021/22.

In three decades, olive oil consumption in non-producing countries in the EU has increased from 21,400 tonnes to 162,700 tonnes, according to the report, while non-producing countries outside the EU have seen a four-fold increase in their olive oil consumption from 246,000 tonnes to 1.1M tonnes in the period.

In the next decade, EU officials expected demand for vegetable oils to be significantly affected by biodiesel production, particularly rapeseed oil.

As a result, they expected growth in the sunflower oil market to be restricted to Hungary and Germany, with demand stagnating across the rest of the EU.

The report said the decrease could be due to “consumer preferences shifting toward more healthy oils, especially in France.” Other than olive oil, demand for soyabean oil was also expected to increase.

EU officials forecast a decline in vegetable oil consumption from an average of 22.1M tonnes in 2020-2022 to 21.2M tonnes in 2032 as other edible oils replace them and biofuel demand declines.

“Given the efforts to reduce the use of palm oil, the types of vegetable oils used in food are also expected to change (a 12.6% increase for rapeseed oil, a 27.5% increase for sunflower oil, a 23.5% decrease for soyabean oil and a 35.7% decrease for palm oil),” the report said.

According to the report, in the next 10 years, EU countries are expected to provide sufficient agricultural output to sustain food security in the region.

The net food trade position of the bloc was expected to grow by 21%, “with high-value food exports more than compensating for imports of commodities such as vegetable oils and animal feed.”