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Traditional taste of Mediterranean cuisine
Olive oil and table olives from Turkey

Treasured since ancient times for their excellent nutritional quality, olives and olive oil have always been essential component of the diet in many Mediterranean civilizations, especially those located in Anatolia (Asiatic portion of Turkey). As a versatile ingredient, olive oil has been used not only as a flavor enhancer in various dishes, but also as a medicine for healing wounds, as fuel for lamps and as cosmetics for the hair and skin in different cultures. Considered sacred, it has been the symbol of peace and richness connecting three continents in one soul. Although the olive tree is native to the eastern Mediterranean basin, it gradually spread westwards beyond Turkey into Europe due to its increased importance as a source of edible oil. Having the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey has been one of the major producers of olives among Mediterranean countries. Thus, olive oil dishes and traditions have been the pride of Turkish cuisine since the time of the Ottomans. Likewise, table olives have been a staple at every Turkish breakfast, generally beside a slice of bread and traditional white cheese.

A healthy food for all ages

Olives and olive oil are appreciated not only for their nutritional quality but also for their health benefits. Among edible oils, olive oil is the only one that can be produced by physical methods from a fresh fruit and can be consumed immediately after pressing the olive, like fruit juice. Likewise, a simple process of treatment with either dry salt or brine is required to produce table olives. Thus, olive oil and table olives are pure, natural, healthy products that require minimal processing. Olives grow best in warm temperatures, and cannot tolerate extreme climatic conditions. The Mediterranean region, owing to its mild climate, contains 98% of the olive harvest and 95% of the olive oil production in the world. Harvesting and processing of olives are carried out between November and March.

Olive oil is classified as “extra virgin”, “virgin”, “refined” and “riviera” (a blend of virgin and refined olive oil that is called “olive oil” in international standards) based on the means of production as well as the physical properties and organoleptic characteristics of the product. Due to the preferences of consumers who are less familiar with the natural taste of olive oil, some are also produced with added flavorings such as garlic, onion, nutmeg, fresh thyme, basil or bay leaves.

In the international standards, table olives are classified as “green olives”, “olives turning color” and “black olives”. They are commercially produced in the forms of “stoned”, “stuffed” (with pimento, capers, etc), “halved”, “sliced”, “paste” as well as “whole” olives. It is quite common in Turkey to start the day by having a rich breakfast including this nutritious food, which contains abundant calcium, iron and vitamin A. There are few countries in the world which have a consumption pattern of olives close to Turkey but according to one’s palate, olives can also be used in the preparation of various dishes. Olives are put in pizzas, salads and cooked dishes as an ingredient and/or eaten as an appetizer usually to accompany a drink.

Olive oil and table olive exports of Turkey

Being a net exporter of olive oil, Turkey supplies the variety of olive oil to a wide range of countries including major producer countries that either consume or re-export Turkish olive oil. Together with the EU countries, the USA is the major importer of olive oil in the world and Turkey is the most important supplier of these countries. Turkish olive oil is demanded from every part of the world and there are more than hundred countries that have experienced the excellent taste and fragrance of Turkish olive oil such as Japan, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland and China as well as the Saudi Arabia, UAE, Philippines, Thailand, Ivory Coast, Seychelles, Colombia, Australia and so on. Although organic production still occupies a small proportion of the total area and output of olives, Turkey’s organic olive and olive oil exports are also rising in parallel with the healthier consumption trends in the world.

Exports of Turkish table olives have been continuously growing over the years. In 2008, the export value of table olives increased by 5% and reached US$ 104 million, which was a record value. Germany, Bulgaria, Romania and the USA are the most important export markets for table olives, representing about 71% of the exports for the past three years.

Olive Oil and Table Olive Exports of Turkey (Q:Tons, V: US$ 1000)

Source: Undersecretariat for Foreign Trade

Prepared by;
Çağlar GÖKSU-Expert
Export Promotion Center of Turkey

Publication date: 12/3/2009


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