Olive-growing and olive oil production are very important within the EU’s agricultural and food sectors. The European Union is the largest olive oil producer; in the course of the year 2011-2012 Spain, Italy and Greece alone accounted for 70% of global olive oil production (International Olive Oil Council, 2013). In terms of area, in 2012 olive farming (for both olive oil and table olives) covered 23% of agricultural land in Greece, 7% in Italy and 11% in Spain.
Due to the growing popularity of this product over the last two decades, olive growing has become more intensive, using an increasing amount of land and resources. Similarly, the production of olive oil also requires large amounts of water and this is particularly problematic given that its production is concentrated in water scarcity areas (southern European countries).
This best practice focusses on the last stage of the olive oil processing where the olive oil separates from remaining fine particles and water. The amount of water needed in the last stage highly depends on the quality of the oil coming from the decanter. This can depend on a number of factors, including the amount of oil processed and the quality of the olives.
The amount of water can be minimised when the oil contains a low concentration of water and fine particles, thus not affecting the final product quality. In all cases, the quantity of water used should be kept to the minimum amount required to achieve the desired final composition
Source: International Olive Oil Council (2013), World Olive Oil Figures. Available at: http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/131-world-olive-oil-figures