Crop failures hike olive oil prices
An Auckland-based European food importing firm says consumers need to brace themselves for price rises in Mediterranean olive oil.
Graham Aitken of William Aitken & Co says a difficult growing season has driven up the buying price to its highest in three years.
Tough weather conditions has led to a shortage of product globally.
But Aitken said, just like crude oil, the international price of olive oil fluctuates, and people should not be put off from indulging in the premium product.
According to the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, more than 95 per cent of olive oil consumed in New Zealand is imported from Europe.
"The global price of olive oil changes monthly, and the reality is that we importers are now experiencing a very high buying price, said Aitken
"This is due to volumes being affected by factors such as drought in Spain and olive groves in Italy being destroyed after being struck by a bacteria strain. Subsequently, here in New Zealand, grocery shoppers can expect to see price increases.
"We're telling people that price rises now seem inevitable, but not to lose the faith. Major medical and scientific studies continue to show the significant health benefits from the likes of extra virgin olive oil, and so people should think seriously before they even consider trading down."
Among many products, William Aitken & Co is the exclusive importer of leading olive oil brand, Lupi.
The four-generation family business has been marketing olive oil in New Zealand for more than 70 years, and in recent years demand for imported Mediterranean olive oil has been boosted by a global health renaissance.
Aitken says while there are some fine Kiwi olive oil producers, they simply struggle to compete with importers on price and product consistency, with the likes of Lupi blended to ensure consistent flavour profile year on year.
"People tend to instantly associate Italy with olive oil but the reality is that olive oil has become a global commodity," says Aitken.
"Unfortunately Spain has just endured its worst olive crop in nearly a decade, after harsh winter frosts and a summer drought which have both led to a serious fall in supply.
"At the same time, a blight has hit the crop in Puglia - Italy's main olive-growing area - with heartbroken growers left with no option but to burn their olive trees to the ground.
"Local or regional issues like these directly affect global supply and pricing.
"The international supply issues around olive oil will take a bit to rectify, and so consumers will need to be a little patient.
"If people ever feel the price is getting a little steep, our advice is to use the high-end extra virgin olive oil for dressings and flavour and use pure or extra light olive oil for high temperature cooking.
- Sunday Star Times