The eurozone's struggling economies face a further blow as olive oil moves West, experts have warned.
Spain, Italy and Greece, who together dominate global production of the Mediterranean staple, are being threatened by tough competition from their New World rivals.
The growing olive oil market in the US is poised to be a "battleground" between the historic European producers and their new challengers from California, Chile and Australia, according to agricultural analysts at Rabobank.
If the European producers lose, it would represent another hit to their faltering economies, which are the focus of investors' concerns amid the eurozone debt crisis.
Currently, large Spanish and Italian companies supply the bulk of olive oil in the US, where imports account for more than 99pc of the $1bn-plus (£629m) retail market.
Italy enjoys a 51pc market share, while Spain, the world's largest olive oil producing nation, has 23pc.
However, the analysts at Rabobank say that US producers, by highlighting their high quality production processes and exploiting the strong consumer appeal of a local label, are expected to capture 5pc of the overall American olive oil market in five years.
European exports look vulnerable, the report warns, particularly the oil coming from Spain which typically commands a smaller price and is seen as being of lower quality. In response, the Old World producers must up their game, the writers conclude.
"Responding effectively to the challenge from New World olive oil producers will require much focus on quality and production efficiency by European olive oil players," said analyst Vito Martielli, the report's
Olive oil was already posing problems for the southern eurozone states. In May, producers suffered as
its price slid to a 10-year low, the result of a supply glut caused by a bumper olive crop in Spain.
There has also been a fall in olive oil consumption in Italy and Greece, as austerity-hit consumers switch to cheaper alternatives.
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