Southeast business owner Charmaine Franken is keeping a close eye on the worldwide shortage of extra virgin olive oil. 

Franken is the owner of Lion’s Creek in Moose Jaw, which specializes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

She said Spain is the world’s largest producer of extra virgin olive oil, but in the past two years the country has experienced record droughts, reducing olive oil production by 40 per cent. 

Italy and Greece are the next two largest olive oil producers and they have also been experiencing droughts and reduced production. 

Because of the shortage, the price of extra virgin olive oil has more than doubled in Canada over the past three years. Figures from Statistics Canada show that, as of April 2024, Canadians were paying an average of $16.32 per litre compared to $6.62 per litre in March of 2021, $9.26 per litre in March of 2022 and $10.58 in March of 2023. 

Not only has there been a rise in price, Franken said the industry is also seeing a rise in mixed oil fraud. 

“When I say oil fraud, they’ve added a different oil to put the volumes up, so it is fraudulent oil,” she said. 

Franken explained that it is important to know where your olive oil comes from, and that mixed oil fraud means lower-quality oil is being passed off as high-quality oil. She said one of the ways to tell the different is taste and that high-quality oil will have flavour. 

She said she spoke to Lion’s Creek Olive Estate farmer and representative for South Africa on the International Oil Council Andries Rabie recently and it’s believed it will take a while for the industry to recover. 

“Based on how long the market takes to recover, historically we anticipate that the prices will remain high for the next three years and then come down by approximately only 30 per cent assuming weather and harvest returns to normal,” Franken said. 

As for Lion’s Creek, Franken said her business has not been affected by the droughts in Europe. Her business gets their product from South Africa and they are expecting a strong harvest this year and into the future. 

“In our recent 2024 harvest, the farm produced a record high of 300,000 litres and we expect that to rise to 500,000 litres by 2026,” Franken said. 

She noted that South Africa went through a major drought from 2016 to 2021, where production was down close to zero.  

Franken said Lion’s Creek has been able to keep their prices the same. However, she said when Europe runs short, demand elsewhere goes up and could drive up prices.