Cooking oil ‘double whammy’ price shock

UK vegetable oil harvest could be cut in half as olive oil prices hit record levels due to climate extremes

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By George Smeeton

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UK yields of oilseed rape, which is used for domestic and commercial vegetable cooking oil, are projected to be as much as 38% lower this year compared with 2023, after extreme wet weather in winter and early spring hit crops. Compared to the average yield since 2015, the reduction could be as much as 54%.

The analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) [1] comes as figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the average price of olive oil is still rising, and is now £8.04 a bottle, up 39% from £5.78 at the same time last year. [2] The price is up from £7.68 in February this year, and by 108% since the same point in 2022.

With oilseed rape yields expected to be so much lower this year, vegetable oil prices could rise, impacting both households and commercial users such a fish and chip shops and catering companies.

Commenting, Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU said: “We’re seeing a double whammy on cooking oil. Be it Spanish olive oil or British vegetable oil, climate extremes are hurting crops and consumers are paying for it at the supermarket checkout. Climate change has added £361 to food bills in the past couple of years [3] and the failure of the British rapeseed oil harvest could see a hike in vegetable oil prices.

“These kinds of extremes, both in the UK and abroad, will only worsen until we reach net zero emissions, making it essential to protecting our food security. But farmers both here in the UK and abroad are going to need our help. British farmers will need short-term support this year to cope with flooding and crop failures, but also longer-term support such as the Government’s Environmental Land Management scheme to help them improve soil health and protect land from flooding with more hedgerows and trees.

“The UK imports half its food, half of which is produce we can’t really grow here. The UK aid budget already helps some farmers in countries on the climate frontline, but this will likely need to increase if we’re to keep the flows of food coming.”

The Mediterranean is the world’s top olive oil-producing region. It experienced scorching heatwaves, droughts and wildfires in 2023, and so far 2024 has also proven to be unusually hot. This has reduced olive yields and therefore the availability of products like olive oil. For example, olive oil is now the most shoplifted item in Spain – the biggest producer globally – as even domestic consumers cannot get hold of it. [4]

Olives cannot be grown at commercial scale in the UK because they are not suited to our climate and soils. In 2023, we imported 62 million kilograms of olive oil worth £333 million, with 89% coming directly from the Mediterranean.

However, in 2022 the UK got 65 million kilograms worth £254 million from the region, meaning we paid over £45 million more for almost 10 million kilograms less last year. This is due to climate change-driven shortages interacting with other factors like Brexit.

Previous ECIU analysis found that the biggest driver of this price increase for UK households is climate change, which added an average of £361 to household food bills in 2023 compared to 2021. [3]

Notes to editors:

1. ECIU analysis found that, based on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) crop area projection and lower than average yields (given wet weather) of 2.7 tonnes per hectare (down from last years average of 3.1 tonnes per ha), the OSR (oilseed rape) harvest this year will be 756k tonnes, down from 1.2m tonnes last year and an average since 2015 of 1.6m tonnes. That is a 38% reduction on the 2023 harvest, and a 54% reduction on the average since 2015.


3. ECIU: Climate, Fossil Fuels and UK Food Prices: 2023:

4. Olive oil becomes most wanted item for shoplifters in Spain:

For more information or for interview requests:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: