WSJ — Greek olive oil should be a shining example of the country’s export sector. Instead, it offers a lesson in why Greece remains deeply uncompetitive despite years of pressure to fix its economy.
But just 2.5% of Greek enterprises are involved in export activity, according to a recent survey by Ernst & Young.
The failure of Greece’s olive-oil makers to break into the international market for branded oil is especially painful. Greece is the world’s No. 3 producer of olive oil, according to Eurostat, but just 4% of branded olive oil sold world-wide is Greek, according to a 2015 report by the National Bank of Greece .
The reason: Greek olive-oil producers have mostly stuck to making bulk oil, unable or unwilling to invest in making the branded product that can command lofty prices in foreign markets. Only 27% of Greek olive oil is exported as a branded product, compared with 50% from Spain and 80% from Italy.
“Greece hasn’t invested to create a brand name, as have Italy and Spain,” says Christina Sakellaridi, who heads the Greek Exporters Association. “Now it’s difficult to compete with them.”
Olive-oil producers also often need to import products such as glass bottles and plastic caps.