Global olive oil consumption has exceeded production during the last three crop years, according to new International Olive Council (IOC) data reported by Olive Oil Times on 23 March.

The IOC said this was the first time such a trend had been reported for three consecutive years.

According to IOC forecasts for production and consumption in member countries, global olive oil consumption in the current season should reach 3.215M tonnes compared with a total production of 3.1M tonnes.

IOC figures also showed that in the 2019/20 crop year, olive oil production had also fallen slightly below consumption, at 3.266M tonnes compared with 3.268M tonnes respectively.

The following season, production also fell to 3.010M tonnes compared with a consumption of 3.125M tonnes.

“Although globally stable during the last two crop years, consumption has not been affected by this slight drop in production,” the IOC said.

The data highlights an emerging trend, according to IOC executive director Abdellatif Ghedira.

“It shows how consumption reflects changes in consumer lifestyles,” Ghedira said. “COVID-19 has changed our behaviour, and consumers have shifted to purchasing better quality products, which has also led to an increase in the value of trade globally.”

Looking at long-term global trends, the IOC data showed a significant increase in worldwide consumption in the last 20 years. In 2001/02, for example, global consumption reached 2.606M tonnes and steadily increased to 3.215M tonnes.

The IOC data also showed steady growth in olive oil consumption in non-member countries.

For example, between 1990/91 and 2019/20, olive oil consumption in the USA increased from 88,000 tonnes to 400,000 tonnes. The USA is currently the largest olive oil importer outside of Europe, with imports of more than 400,000 tonnes forecast in the current season.

The IOC also reported a slight increase in imports in 2021/22, up to 1.211M tonnes, Olive Oil Times wrote, with exports also rising to 1.189M tonnes compared with 1.1M tonnes the previous year.