22 Oct

California Now Harvesting One of the Largest Olive Crops in Years

CNBC TV Highlights $500 Million U.S. Market

“The New Oil Boom,” (olive oil, that is) is featured on last Friday’s CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street, Another Type of Oil with Jane Wells.” In her piece, Ms. Wells covered “a new oil boom, and a new oil war,” referring to doubled U.S. production and the push by U.S. producers for “truth in advertising” on labels. As the originators of more than 98% of all the extra virgin olive oil produced domestically, California producers are competing against dozens of imported oils, many of which may be incorrectly labeled. Ms. Wells commented that some producers from other countries “have maybe mixed in canola oil … ” and “call their olive oil extra virgin, even if it’s only like a virgin.”

“Fortunately, new USDA standards for olive oil are expected to be adopted by the end of the year,” notes Patricia Darragh, Executive Director of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), which has focused its efforts on this issue. To combat mislabeling, the California Olive Oil Council places its seal of certification on oils that meet its rigorous tests for extra virgin olive oil, the highest quality olive oil a consumer can buy.

With the growth in the U.S. olive oil market averaging 20% per year, (“thanks to its health benefits,” as Ms. Wells remarked) California is increasing production to supply oils domestically. The current 2007-2008 harvest is expected to be the largest in years, and that means, as Ms. Wells stated, that “California is about to overtake France” in olive oil production. And the weak dollar is helping. “The cost of imported oils has been rising, so (consumers) have a chance to taste fresh, delicious, authentic California oils at a good price,” says Ms. Darragh.

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