The importance of a special product
Olive oil was one of the first products exported by Portugal.
The references to the olive trees are very old. The Visigothic Code, in the agricultural protection laws, prescribed a fine for anyone who plucked an olive tree from others.
The greatest development of this culture occurs in the provinces where the reconquest arrived later. It is expressly mentioned in the edicts of Lisbon, Almada, Palmela and Alcácer do Sal, given by D. Afonso Henriques in 1170. Later it happens in the Algarve, in 1269, and in Évora, in 1273.
The beginning of exportation
In the XIV century, the cultivation of the olive tree was done with more relevance in Évora and Coimbra. It’s in the student city that the king grants the same privileges of Lisbon, that is, the possibility of loading and transporting the oil in the waters and outfall of the Mondego river for export and for the domestic market.
In 1555 the consumption of the olive oil increased greatly, beginning to be used frequently in the lighting. In this century the export had as destination the markets of the North of Europe and overseas, especially to India.
In the time of the Philip dominion there was a decrease in the export, thanks to the appearance of the “black market”, consequence of the hoarding and speculation that ended up burdening the product.
In the eighteenth century, Coimbra ceased to be the main producer center. Despite the complaints about the low production, justified by the monopoly of the mills, the best quality olive oil was the Santarém area. In spite of the manufacturing processes, in the 19th century, Portuguese olive oil was awarded at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.
Os nossos produtos com azeite
In the 80s
In this decades, Portugal reduced its olive oil production and the annual oscillations have been substantial. In 1982, 79 510 tonnes were produced and in 1983, only 8800 tonnes.
In the year of accession to the EEC, in 1986, Portugal had 340,000 hectares of olive groves spread all over the country, mostly concentrated in the Alentejo, with 144 632 hectares. The agrarian regions of Trás-os-Montes, Beira Interior, Ribatejo and Oeste were also significant areas.
In these years, specialized olive-growing farms had essentially a traditional olive grove crop which was not very competitive because of low productivity and an unadjusted cost structure, not only because of high depreciation and wages but also because of the need to practice manual harvesting.
Bigger olive oil productions
In 2011, production reached its highest value since 1967, with around 76 thousand tons of oil supplying domestic and foreign markets. In its production stands out a list of products with protected designation of origin that were composed in 2012 by 6 references.
In 2018, the national production of olive oil was around 120,000 tons and became a historic campaign, very similar to the one that took place 64 years ago, when 121,800 tons were obtained, the highest value since there are records.
Portugal consumes about 70 thousand tons of olive oil annually and exports more than 100 thousand tons (data for 2017).
The investment in olive groves that have been made in recent years, especially in the Alentejo, is having practical effects on the trade balance, causing for the first time a positive balance in the commercialization of this product.