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A shortage of Italian olive oil means Americans are being forced to buy Greek

John Kolesidis
Greek olive oil gets its moment.
By Deena Shanker
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Italy’s olive grove disease may be a blessing for Greece.

Thanks to a pathogen spreading through the country’s olive trees, Italy is expecting a 34% drop in olive oil production, the lowest it has been since 1991, according to data from the International Olive Oil Council. But the blight has left an opening in the world olive oil market that Greece is poised to fill.

This year, Greece is vying for the spot of second highest olive oil producing country, with an expected production of 300,000 tonnes, just under Italy’s expected 305,000. (Spain keeps its hold on the top spot.) While last year Greece saw production drop significantly due to drought, Italy’s blight presents an excellent opportunity for the cash-strapped country. In the US, it’s already benefitting from its new position: Costco Wholesale will now use Greek olive oil, instead of Italian, for its Kirkland Signature 2-liter bottle.

Greece may be taking advice from a 2012 report from McKinsey, which suggested that the country capitalize more on its olive oil by packaging and branding its olive oil itself, instead of exporting it in bulk to Italy, which results in Greek producers losing significant value.

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