Forty-five per cent of the olives in the world are grown in Spain, as of 2004. Domestically, Spain uses 50% more olive oil than Italy does. Italy imports a great deal of Spanish olive oil in bulk, packages it, labels it as Italian, and re-exports it to the rest of the world as Italian.
The most widespread varieties grown in Spain are l'Arbequina, la Comicabra, Hojiblanca and Picual. Other popular ones include Fraga, l'Empeltre, la Lechin, la Verdial, la Carasquena, la Blanqueta and la Manzanilla. 50% of Spanish olive oil, and therefore 20% of the world's olive oil, comes from Picual olives (as of 2004.) The Picual is grow mostly in Jaén, Córdoba and Granada.
Olives grown in Spain primarily for oil include Arbequina, Cacerena, Cornicabra, Empeltre, Hojiblanca, Lechin, Picual, and Verdial de Badajoz. Olives grown primarily for table use include Cacerena, Hojiblanca and Manzanilla. Spanish table olives are usually lye-cured.
Olive Oil production in Spain by region (as of 2004)
- Andalucia 80 %
- Castilla/la Mancha 7%
- Extremadura 5%
- Catalonia 3.5%
- Rest of Spain 4.5%
The province of Jaén in Andalucia is the largest olive-growing region in the world; it alone produces as much olive oil as does the entire country of Greece (as of 2004.)
Olives are thought to have been introduced by Carthaginians who colonized parts of Spain between the 5th and 4th centuries BC. By 65 AD, production on the Italian peninsula was no longer enough to meet demand there, and imports of olives from Spain to Italy began.
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