California is in a position to some day end this country’s reliance on foreign oil — olive oil, that is. Chalk it up to more olive trees and new mills that crush olives into extra virgin olive oil. Even wineries are jumping into the olive oil business. All that has helped push California’s olive oil output up more than 25% this year, positioning the Golden state to surpass France.
The latest batch of good news comes from industry officials and a survey conducted by an olive oil industry trade group.
“California has the potential to increase production to meet all of the U.S. olive oil demand,” says the survey from the California Olive Oil Council. “Clearly, this is an extraordinary opportunity for the California olive oil industry.”
Self-sufficiency would be a sea change for this country when it comes to olive oil — although we still have a long way to go.
“That’s the goal,” says Patty Darragh, the COOC’s executive director. “We certainly want to have a bigger piece of the pie.”
The United States currently imports nearly 99% percent of the olive oil we consume. Most of the imported olive oil comes from the Mediterranean basin, including like Italy, Spain and Greece.
The COOC survey points out California produces “almost all of the domestic extra virgin olive oil consumed in the U.S.” But that only amounts to about 1% of total U.S. olive oil consumption. The trade group surveyed olive growers, olive oil producers, and olive tree nurseries.
The nation’s consumption of olive oil has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, climbing to some 70 million gallons last year — or a quarter of a gallon per American — from around 30 million gallons.
The COOC’s Darragh says California’s annual olive oil production is set to exceed 1 million gallons in the current 2010 olive harvest, up from 870,000 gallons last year. “At 1.1 million gallons we should surpass France this year,” she tells us.
Why the increase? The number of olive mills and olive trees are growing. (We’ve been planting our own trees at a rapid pace and expanding one of our own mills.) Also, says the survey, wineries are planting trees and establishing their own milling facilities, including Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Preston Vineyards, and Silverado Vineyards.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch