EU olive producers already dominate the European and global olive oil and table olive markets and their slice of the pie is only poised to grow in the coming years.
Large and intensive olive plantations or small traditional olive orchards, together with ancient olive groves and even monumental olive trees, some of which are 2 500 or 3 000 years old – all these are emblematic of the Mediterranean basin's landscape, cultural heritage and culinary traditions.
Olive-based products are primary elements in the agricultural economy of the EU's southern countries, with about 5 million hectares of plantations and more than €7 000 million in production value every year.
Although olive and olive oil prices have risen in recent years, turnover on individual farms depends on olive grove size and productivity levels, with the unit costs of production in traditional systems noticeably higher – and therefore less profitable – than in intensive and irrigated cultivation systems.
EU producing countries account for 70 to 75 % of world production of olive oil and more than one third for table olives.
EU legislation seeks to sustain and enhance this leading role, with a framework of rules on areas ranging from aid to producers to promotion initiatives, and from plant health to quality and marketing standards.
Economic forecasts point to increased production (especially in Spain) and demand from non-producing countries, which will enhance the EU's leading role on the export market.
The EU is a member of the International Olive Council, whose latest agreement establishing rules for the organisation of the international olive market is in the process of being adopted by the EU institutions. More