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3.3. Results: Cooperation agreements and exports

3.3.1. Olive oil


However, it must be pointed out that Chinese consumers still lack knowledge about wines, but this depends greatly on the city and on the consumer segment. The new interest in wine of Chinese consumers, especially of urban Millennials who are adopting Western habits, makes this sector particularly interesting for wine producers. Qualitatively speaking, Made in Italy wine can easily be compared to French wine but there is still a lot to do before it is perceived as an excellent alternative.

3.3. Results: Cooperation agreements and exports


Concerning imports, the Direct China Chamber of Commerce (DCCC) reported that Chinese consumers valued the quality and high food safety standards associated with imported oils more than those produced domestically.124 It seems that consumers prefer to purchase imported oils because of the lowering of olive oil prices in Europe, which made it more accessible, and because of the reduction of tariffs for Italian olive oil imports. China, with 4% of world imports of olive oil and olive pomace oil, ranks s ixth behind the United States (36%), the European Union (17%), Brazil (8%), Japan (7%) and Canada (5%).

Imports into China increased by 13.5% in 2019/2020 crop year: Graphic 12 shows that the olive oil market in China has maintained strong growth during the period from 2014/15 to 2019/20, when imports reached 55,580t, which is 54.8% more than in the 2014/15 crop year. 125

Graphic 12 Olive oil imports in China for crop years (tons)

Source: e laboration on IOC Report 2021

Spanish olive oil, with its competitive price, dominates the Chinese market with a share of around 86% of total imports in the country; while Italy occupies the second place, with a share of 9%. Table 9 illustrates the total value of Italian olive oil exports to China. In 2013 exports registered a value of 29.05 million € and this may be related to the Memorandum of Understanding about quality controls on olive oil (Zhòngyì gǎnlǎn yóu hézuò bèiwànglù, 中 意 橄 榄 油 合 作 备 忘 录) which was signed in March by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies and by the AQSIQ of the People's Republic of China. The agreement aimed to enhance communication and cooperation in the training of Chinese control experts who were responsible for controlling olive oil exported from Italy

124 Ibidem

125 International Olive Council, Newsletter n.160, p.17, available on:

https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/NEWSLETTER_IOC- 160_EN.pdf (last accessed 24/08/2021)

0 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000

2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019 2019/2020


Olive oil imports in China


to the Asian country, to strengthen detection technology of olive oil's authenticity, pros and cons identification and analysis.

However, we can notice that exports have decreased in 2014, reaching a total value of 21.56 million €, and in 2015 with 22.16 million €. In 2015 some Italian brands such as Bertolli, Carapelli e Sasso, owned by the Spanish company Deoleo, were involved in a scandal for having sold lower-quality products as “extra virgin”, raising fresh concerns about allegations of consumer fraud in the industry. According to an article of The Guardian the analysis of samples from all these brands revealed that they did not meet EU labeling rules for extra virgin olive oil.126 Chinese authorities immediately blocked the aforementioned brands and this may have caused Chinese consumers mistrust of Italian olive oil’s authenticity. Then, in 2016, the ban was removed after a diplomatic meeting between Italian ambassador in China, Ettore Sequi, and Chinese authorities in charge of food security. Later, on the same year, the Minister of Health, Beatrice Lorenzin, on behalf of Mipaaf has signed with the General Administration for quality control, inspection and quarantine of the People's Republic of China Memorandum of understanding for what concerns the quality of olive oil, with the purpose of facilitating exports into China.

Table 9 Olive oil exports 2013-2020

Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

Product category

Value in million EUR

Olive oil and its fractions


27.21 20.30 21.20 29.54 36.86 25.07 21.50 14.54

Other oils and their fractions


1.838 1.251 956.450 987.570 1.285 1.607 1.607 912.496

Total 29.05 21.56 22.16 30.53 38.15 26.68 22.42 14.71

Source: e laboration on Trade map data

126 Kirchgaessner, Stephanie, Extra virgin on the ridiculous: Italian olive oil producers accused of fraud, 2015

127 Whether or not refined, but not chemically modified

128 Obtained solely from olives, whether or not refined, but not chemically modified, including blends of these oils or fractions with oils or fractions of heading 1509.


2017 was a year of growth for Italian olive oil on the Chinese market: with almost 40 million Euros, the increase was 41%. 2018 shows a fall of exports: the total value reached 26.68 million €, with a percentage change of -30.1% compared with 2017. Probably this is due to the tariffs that were imposed during the Trade war between China and the US which had an impact on many Italian products, including olive oil. In fact, in 2019 exports reached a value of 26.68 million € and their percentage change was -18.9%, better than the previous year but still negative.

At present there are over 300 brands of olive oil in the country, of which the majority is imported from Europe, but also from other countries. The International Olive Oil Council has estimated that in the next few years the olive oil market in China will continue to grow.

China has also started to produce its own olive oil, thanks to the cooperation betwee n Italian and Chinese companies for what concerns the import of Italian olive trees and machinery useful for production. This may be considered as an evidence of the interest in investing in this country.