Exports of olive oil from Spain rose by 24 per cent last year to €1.2 billion or 600,493 tons, according to the latest information from the country's Ministry of Agriculture.
The EU was the biggest market for Spanish olive oil, accounting for 81.3 per cent of total exports with 488,001 tons. Within the EU, Italy -itself a major producer of olive oil - was the leading importer with 326,030 (34.3 per cent of total exports), mostly in the form of bulk sales.
In contrast, imports of oil into Spain dropped sharply during the 2001/02 season, falling 57 per cent to 10,058 tons, the lowest level for almost 10 years.
Outside the EU, exports to other countries reached 112,492 tons, with the US the largest single market with 32, 677 tons. Australia was also a major market with sales of 13,304 tons, as was Japan with 11,803 tons.
Other important markets include Mexico (5,332 tons), Brazil (4,729 tons), Russia (3,106 tons) and Canada (2,397 tons).
Despite the increase in exports, the Ministry said that there was still much work to be done to improve sales further, not least a shift from bulk to bottled olive oils sales which would significantly improve the added value of the exports.