Spain's olive oil exports jumped 22% last year, helping the country make headway in its efforts to displace Italy as the world's largest exporter, trade association Asoliva has said.

Spain's olive oil exports reached 304,149 tonnes in fiscal 2007, Asoliva said. The country's total olive oil sales totalled EUR1.7bn (US$2.4bn) in fiscal 2007, compared to EUR.1.5bn the year before. Production rose to 1.1m tonnes, helped by rising domestic and international demand.

"The industry has returned to normality. Prices have fallen and domestic consumption has recovered," Asoliva president Jose Pont said.

In the last five years, Spain has been catching up with Italy as the world's largest exporter. Italy is a huge consumer of olives from Spain, the leading global producer. Spain's inability to establish a competitive olive oil industry has kept it behind Italy, which exports over 400,000 tonnes a year.

Thanks to booming consumption from the emerging markets, particularly China and Brazil, Spain has seen exports quadruple from 76,140 tonnes in 2002, a year when Italy exported 260,000 tonnes.