Olive oil lovers may finally get a break on their grocery bills after three years of elevated prices for the staple of Mediterranean cooking.

Deoleo, the world’s largest olive oil supplier, expects rising global harvests in the 2017-2018 season will cut prices for consumers. That may help sales at the company, said CEO Pierluigi Tosato, who is completing a financial restructuring.

Bigger harvests of the fruit across much of the Mediterranean region will lift olive oil output by an estimated 12 percent, even as top producer Spain deals with a third year of drought, Tosato said in an interview. “That will push oil prices downwards, giving new breath to the market,” he said in an interview.

In Jaen, a city in southern Spain that’s a trading hub for the oil used in salads and cooking, prices for the finest extra-virgin quality have held above 3 euros ($3.50) a kilogram (35 ounces) for most of the past three years, after climbing from less than 2 euros in 2014, according to prices tracked by the European Commission.

Higher prices have pushed homemakers and restaurants to seek cheaper alternatives such as sunflower-seed oil, which trades at about 80 cents a kilogram in Rotterdam. “Many consumers in mature markets such as Spain and Italy have started buying cheaper seed oil. Once they shift, it’s really unlikely they’ll go back” at current prices, Tosato said.

Spain’s annual olive oil consumption has fallen by about 90,000 metric tons in the past five years, while use of sunflower-seed oil rose by 140,000 tons, said Vito Martielli, a grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank in the Netherlands. Italians now use around 160,000 tons less olive oil than in 2011, while use of sunflower-seed oil rose by about 200,000 tons, he said.

“If olive oil is not on the market, consumers have to find alternatives,” Martielli said. “We have some substitution in effect, and the oil that’s been winning, by far, is sunflower.”

The International Olive Oil Council forecasts 2017-18 global output will rise by about 300,000 metric tons to 2.85 million tons.

“The Spanish, Italians and Greeks like to consume olive oil – it’s the preferred oil,” said Martielli. “If it’s more affordable, they’ll switch back.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.