Sabia olive oil, produced in Serra da Mantiqueira and Serra do Sudeste, in Rio Grande do Sul, was recognized as one of the ten best in the world by the results of the prestigious international competition of the Spanish Evooleum. As emphasized in the competition’s advertisement, “the big surprise this year was Brazilian olive oil” – the only award-winning product produced outside of Europe.
It was from Spain that Christopher Columbus brought the first olive seedlings to America. Chile, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil have known this culture for centuries. Oil gave light to forts and churches, served as a lubricant for weapons and was present in cooking. The story goes that Dom João 6º, before returning to Portugal in 1821, had the olive trees cut down to prevent local competition for an important Portuguese export product.
It was then decided that Brazil was not an olive oil producer. But the olive tree grows well here, with leafy branches and trunks, but its yield is lower than the Mediterranean one. Fruiting requires heat stress, 300 hours below 12ºC per year or water stress, drought. In high mountainous regions such as Mantiqueira and latitudes such as the south, conditions are favorable for cultivation.
Olive cultivation showed its economic viability in Brazil in 2006. The research companies Epamig (MG) and Embrapa (RS) have developed studies on varieties and management that provide good adaptation to the Brazilian soil and climate. Thanks to this, we won stages in quality compared to the vast European gardens. Add to this that olive oil is a fruit juice, and the fresher it is, the better. Less than 15 years later, Brazil stands out on the world stage for the quality of its olive oil.
Today we have more than 120 brands and more than 10 thousand hectares of crops in Brazil. The numbers are still tiny when it comes to the domestic market. We have a per capita consumption of 500 milliliters a year and an annual import of 100 million liters, the second largest importer in the world after the United States. Brazilian production, 250 thousand liters in 2021, does not reach 1% of this market. The shelves are dominated by imported products from past harvests, which still have nutritional and organoleptic value, but are much lower than fresh Brazilian extra virgin.
The size of the market also attracts scammers. Olive oil is the second most scammed product on the planet, where blends or refined old oils are sold as legitimate Portuguese or Spanish.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Agriculture has already identified and removed many counterfeit olive oils from the market. It requires only a chemical analysis, a momentary photograph of the product. The ideal would be, as in Europe, organoleptic analysis panels capable of confirming the quality of the olive oil. Fortunately, we are making progress on the first sensory analysis panel and strengthening observation. In this way, we can enjoy with greater safety that liquid “gold” that is a good extra virgin olive oil from Brazil.
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