Olives Around the World
The olive has always played a key role in the development of commerce in the Mediterranean cultures. Today it is a crop of major economic importance in many countries throughout the world.
The olive tree is grown around the world. Olive trees originated from a dry, subtropical climate but are well-suited to extreme environmental conditions such as drought and high temperatures. Although the olive requires aerated soil, it can adapt itself to a wide range of different soil types and temperatures. The map above shows the climatic range of where the olive tree is grown.
- Over 1 billion olive trees grow on 6 of 7 continents in 20 countries around the world.
- AFRICA: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia
- MIDDLE EAST: Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey
- ASIA: China
- EUROPE: Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, France, and Yugoslavia
- NORTH AMERICA: United States (California, Arizona, and Texas), and Mexico
- SOUTH AMERICA: Argentina, Peru, and Chile
- Over 15 million acres of olives are planted worldwide. Ninety percent of those border the Mediterranean.
- The annual olive harvest is nearly 10 million tons. Over 1 million tons are processed as table olives, and the balance is pressed for olive oil.
- California produces nearly all the olives in the United States; over 26,000 acres.
- Manzanilla olives represent over 70% of the olives grown here. Other varieties are Sevillano, Mission, Ascolano, and Barouni. Most olives become California black ripe olives.
- Spain is the world's largest exporter of table olives. The majority of its exports are the Spanish-style pimento-stuffed green olives.
- The varieties grown in Spain are Manzanilla, Hojiblanca, and Gordal. Manzanillas produce the best-tasting table olive, while Hojiblancas are used primarily for olive oil production and make marginal quality table olives. Gordals are known as Queen olives.
- Greece grows more than 1,500,000 acres of olives.
- Greek olives include Konservolia, Halkidiki, and Kalamata. Kalamata olives are allowed to ripen on the tree until their skin turns purple-black.
- The olive is the predominant fruit tree in Morocco.
- Morocco grows Picholine Marocaine and Zitoun olives, and they are used in both table olives and olive oil.