The incessant escalation of olive oil prices is evident in absolutely exorbitant figures. So far this year the varieties of virgin and extra virgin have become more expensive no less than 42% on average in the supermarket. Only in the last month they have shot up 14% and, if you look further back, since January 2022 they have accumulated an average increase of 107%.

These are some of the data revealed by the latest study by the consumer association Facua, which analyzes the evolution of prices of this basic product of the Mediterranean diet in six of the main distribution chains operating in Spain: Alcampo, Carrefour, Dia, Eroski, Hipercor and Mercadona.

The baptized as liquid gold – rightly, in view of the price fluctuation – heads the list of foods that have become more expensive in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the National Institute of Statistics, with a rise of 52.5% in the last year.

And if the focus is opened to the European environment, it is observed that Spain is the country where this food has become more expensive, despite being the main producer. Specifically, according to data from the European statistical office Eurostat, the year-on-year rate of the harmonized CPI of olive oil stood at 38.8% in July (latest data available), above the figure reached in other large producers such as Italy (30.7%), Portugal (27.8%) or Greece (18.9%).

The rise, therefore, is widespread among neighboring countries, especially in the Mediterranean area, where harvests have been most depleted by drought. But the Spanish case is exceptional, as defended by professional associations, because consumption in our country is much higher (we consume 11.4 liters per year per person, compared to 7.1 liters in Italy or 5.8 liters in Portugal) and there is a greater rotation on the supermarket shelves.

Faced with this scenario, which becomes unsustainable for the pockets of many families, Facua has been denouncing price speculation due to the sharp increases that are occurring in the last link of the chain. In this sense, the association reflects in its report that extra virgin olive oil has risen this year to 2.57 euros more in the super than in the origin.

On average, the average price of a liter of EVOO in supermarkets has gone from 6.91 euros at the beginning of January to 10.34 euros at the beginning of September. Meanwhile, the price of the liter at origin before taxes registered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has gone from 4.91 euros to 7.49 euros in the same period, according to Facua.

Distribution defends itself

However, from the distribution sector they defend that the study prepared by this consumer association that accuses them of speculating with prices ignores that, since the beginning of the campaign in October 2022 to date, extra virgin olive oil has risen in origin by 88%. In addition, they denounce that the report selects random references, without taking into account aspects such as quality and ignoring packaging companies, which are at the center of the chain.

However, Facua has transferred the data to the Ministry of Consumption, before which it will expand the complaint filed last week against eight supermarkets and hypermarkets for price increases in food affected by the VAT reduction.

The association asks the department directed by Alberto Garzón to open an investigation to determine if there have been unjustified margin increases – as prohibited by the royal decree-law by which the tax reduction was approved – and, where appropriate, send the corresponding sanctioning files. But, consulted by this means, from the Ministry insist that they do not have the competences for it.

For her part, from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the first vice president of the Government in functions, Nadia Calviño, said last week that she has no evidence that distribution companies are carrying out any type of speculative practice with olive oil prices. Of course, this Monday he insisted on asking the entire chain to "shoulder the shoulder" to alleviate what, in his opinion, has become the problem that "most worries" Spanish families at the moment.

  • Supermarkets
  • Feeding
  • Inflation
  • Alberto Garzon
  • Nadia Calviño