In France, the consumption of table olives is lower compared to the other Mediterranean countries, mainly because the traditional French recipes are characterized basically of animal origin ingredients. But recently table olives demand increase due to the fact that they belong to the Mediterranean diet and therefore are health food products. In the last two decades the consumption has almost doubled so as France and Germany are placed in the third place in Europe, following Spain and Italy.
Table olives in France are mainly sold in supermarkets, gourmet stores (eg Grande Épicerie de Paris, Galeries Lafayette, Marks & Spencer) which specialize in high quality products, in farmers’ markets and small grocery stores. The olives are available either packaged or in bulk. Black olives are commonly used in cooking (55%) compared with green (47%) that are consumed raw.
The annual consumption per capita in 2013 reached 0.92 kg from 0.52 kg in 1994, with a cumulative increase of 77%. A large increase in consumption was first observed in 2004 when the average of the total annual consumption soared to 54,000 tonnes, while the previous years it did not exceed 37,000 tonnes.
The French consume table olives throughout the year and especially during the summer months. The table olives are mainly eaten as a starter (88%) but also as a main course in lunch and dinner. Moreover, at recent years, the use of olives in the preparation of food becomes a widespread habit.
The imports cover more than 95% of domestic demand needs. Specifically for the period March-August imports range up to 8,000 tonnes per month, while for the period September-February they subside at about 6,000 tonnes. July is the peak month of consumption and imports as well.
Spain is the main supplier country of the French market compared to the other EU countries. In 2014, its exports exceeded in volume the 90% of all EU countries, while in value were between 80-90% (43 million euros).
At the same period Greece’s exports to the French market in 2014 reached the 3% in volume of Community exports and the 7% of their value (3.9 million euros). However, the Greek olives, known as the «Olives à la grecque» in France enjoy higher price than the average for the Community and essentially than the Spanish olives.
France produces table olives but has limited production capacity. It has about 500,000 acres (2011) of olive trees under cultivation in 13 different apartments in the south-eastern part of the country. According to data from the International Olive Oil Council, over the past two decades, the French olive quantities have been varied between 1,100 and 2,000 tonnes.
The two main varieties grown for the production of table olives are Picholine in the category of green and Tanche the category of black. With a reference period of the past five years, the average share of green olives was around 70% and of black olives 30%.
Summarizing, there is a trade deficit because the French olive production is too low to satisfy the needs of the local market and this leads to a high level of imports.