Close to a billion olive trees are cultivated worldwide; ninety-five percent of which are grown in the Mediterranean region.
Greece devotes sixty percent of its agricultural land to growing olives. Greece is also the world leader in the production of black olives and produces the most varieties of olives than any other country. While most consumers think Italy, France or Spain when it comes to olive oil, Greece is the third largest producer of olive oil on the globe. With more than 160 million trees, the country boasts over 350 thousand tons of olive oil per year (82 percent of which is extra virgin olive oil).
Greece also has the largest per capita consumption of olive oil in the world, with over 26 liters per person per year. Spain and Italy consume about 14 litres per capita, with Tunisia, Portugal, Syria and Lebanon tied at 8 litres. Northern Europe and North America consume far less, around 0.7 litres, but the consumption of olive oil outside the Mediterranean continues to rise.
The majority of olive oil produced in Greece is extra virgin, making it a much sought after commodity. While neighbouring countries may produce more, the quality is unmatched. Fifty percent of Italian olive oil is extra virgin, and only thirty percent for Spain. Greek extra virgin olive oil is highly regarded, as it offers a great variety of flavours and aromas, with a low oleic acid or acidity level (less than 0.8 percent). (Note: In order for an olive oil to be deemed extra virgin, it must have an oleic acid or acidity level less than 0.8 percent. Acidity levels are determined by chemical analysis only.)