Why do olive oils made in SA tend to be pricier than imported ones?

SA Olive chairperson Nick Wilkinson explains

04 November 2021 - 10:01
The words 'extra virgin' and 'virgin' denote olive oils that are completely natural and unrefined, according to SA Olive, an association representing the common interests of the local olive industry.
The words 'extra virgin' and 'virgin' denote olive oils that are completely natural and unrefined, according to SA Olive, an association representing the common interests of the local olive industry.
Image: 123RF/rrraven

Our supermarket shelves groan with an eye-wateringly great selection of olive oils proudly made in SA. The question I’m most often asked about them is, “how do you distinguish a good one”?

The answer is simple: look for the SA Olive seal. This is a guarantee that the oil in question is an extra virgin olive oil, which has been 100% locally produced by a maker who is “committed to compliance” in quality olive oil production.

Another common query concerns the cost of SA extra virgin olive oils, which tends to be higher than imported ones. I'll admit I’ve always been curious as to why something produced locally comes at a premium price.

“European producers receive subsidies that allow them to keep prices lower while input costs in SA like labour, electricity and fertilisers keep rising,” explained Nick Wilkinson, SA Olive chairperson and owner of Rio Largo Olive Estate, at the recent Absa Top 10 Olive Oil Awards.

Yes, I get it, our government offers no subsidies to producers. And, yes, input costs are rising in SA but this applies to other countries too. As a result this statement is unlikely to win over hard-pressed consumers.

Considering the growth in the industry, I foresee that, with time, there will be a glut of locally-produced olive oils and, rightly or wrongly, depending on whose side you are on, this is what will bring prices down.


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