Significant increases in olive oil prices have led to a sharp decline in sales in Mediterranean, as consumers struggle to afford what was once a staple in their diet.

Greece, one of the world’s top producers of “liquid gold”, has seen its production heavily impacted by droughts and heatwaves exacerbated by climate change. In 2023, the country produced 120,000 metric tons of olives, less than half of the previous crop.

Earlier this year, Eurostat reported that Greek buyers faced year-on-year price hikes of over 60%, causing many to cut back on their consumption.

Spain, which produces more olive oil than any other country, saw a 22% decline in sales in the first 20 weeks of this year compared to 2023. In Italy, a survey by the Piepoli Institute found that nearly a third of consumers had reduced their consumption as prices rose to €9 per bottle.

The alarming trend is present across the globe. Over the past two seasons, only 2.4 million tons of olive oil were produced, far below the typical annual demand of 3.2 million tons. Juan Vilar, a consultant to olive oil producers and retailers in Spain, noted, “It is the first time in history that we had two bad seasons in a row.”

According to the Financial Times, export bans from certain countries have further strained global supply. Turkey imposed a ban on bulk olive oil exports last August to control inflation, a ban that has only been partially lifted. Syria and Morocco also restricted exports, contributing to higher prices and tighter supplies.

Nevertheless, a study by Deoleo, the world’s largest olive oil seller by revenue, found some resilience in the US market, where volumes have declined but not as sharply as in the Mediterranean. CEO Ignacio Silva noted that new consumers are entering the olive oil category daily in the US. “This increase in penetration may be slowing down, but it is still happening because there are still many opportunities,” he said.