Health-Conscious China Gobbles Up Australia’s Olive Oil – Report

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | February 20, 2014 4:53 PM EST

China is gobbling up more and more of Australia's olive oil produce as the country gets more health-conscious.

Citing Tim Smith, sales and marketing director at Boundary Bend Ltd., Australia's largest producer of extra-virgin oil, the WSJ reported that China along with other Asian investors now own 10 per cent of Australia's olive groves.

China developed a penchant for olive oil, not part of the traditional Chinese cuisine, as alternative option for healthy cooking and eating, spurred by domestic food-safety scares.

In 2013, China imported a whopping $184 million worth of olive oil, a jump of 9.3 per cent from a year ago. A decade earlier, China imported just a measly $1 million. Ninety-nine per cent of China's olive oil requirements are imported because the country doesn't have the right conditions to grow its own olives.

The surge has prompted Chinese entrepreneurs to search Australia to ensure a steady supple source for the cooking ingredient staple.

"There are a lot of wealthy Chinese willing to pay for high-quality olive oil to ensure they have the 'real thing,' " Lisa Rowntree, chief executive of the Australian Olive Association growers group, told WSJ.

And olive growers around the world believe the Chinese fascination won't just be a passing fad.

"There is enormous potential for continuous growth in Chinese olive-oil use over the next two decades, although perhaps not at the explosive rate of 30 per cent or 40 per cent annual growth seen in the past five years," Manuel Leon, the Shanghai representative of Extenda, Andalusia's export promotion agency, said.

Andalusia is a southern province located in Spain. The latter is where half of the world's olive oil output comes from.

Mr Leon said Extenda receives several queries from Chinese companies each month wanting to buy oil or do licensing agreements. And Extenda is just one of Andalusia's many olive growers.

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