Olive oil is derived from the fruit of the olive tree and originated in the Mediterranean area. Olives designated for oil are picked before ripening in the fall. Olive picking is usually done by hand. The olives are then weighed and washed in cold water. The olives, along with their oil-rich pits, are then crushed and kneaded until a homogeneous paste is formed. The paste is spread by hand onto metal plates, which are then stacked and pressed hydraulically to yield a liquid. The liquid is then centrifuged to separate the oil. It takes 1,300 to 2,000 olives to produce 1 quart of olive oil. The best olive oil is still produced from the first pressing, which is usually performed within 24 to 72 hours after harvest and is called extra virgin olive oil.
Supply - World production of olive oil (pressed oil) in the marketing year 2006-07 rose +11.8% to 3.007 million metric tons, but still slightly below the 2004-05 record high of 3.078. The world's largest producers of olive oil in 2006-07 were Spain (with 41% of world production), Italy (20%), Greece (13%), Syria (6%), Tunisia (5%), and Turkey (5%). Production levels in the various countries vary considerable from year-to-year depending on various weather and crop conditions.
Demand - World consumption of olive oil in the 2006-07 marketing year rose +4.0% to a new record high of 2.990 million metric tons. The U.S. is the world's largest consumer of olive oil with 7.9% of world consumption in 2006-07. The U.S. consumption of olive oil set a new record high of 236,500 metric tons.
Trade - World olive oil imports in 2006-07 rose +6.9% to 741,500 metric tons. The U.S. was the world's largest importer in 2006-07 with 245,000 metric tons, representing 33% of world imports. The world's largest exporters were Italy (with 28% of world exports), Spain (20%), Tunisia (17%), and Turkey (9%).