EU Olive Oil Promotion Policies ‘Unfair’

Opinion & Commentary

By Giusy Pascucci, on October 19, 2012

The following is a reader-submitted opinion unedited by Olive Oil Times editorial staff. Do you have an opinion you’d like to share? See our submission form and guidelines here.

“Europe clamours for countries to play as a team but rows in the opposite direction, supporting certain countries at the expense of others, in consequence of a lack of coordination of its promotion policies.”

This was the statement made by CEQ, the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Consortium, during the press conference on “European promotion: unfair competition?” held in Rome.

CEQ has exhibited unequivocal proof which show how Europe is encouraging competition distortion against all principles laid down by the Rome Treaty.

CEQ has given evidence of its own verifications within its promotion activities in India, China and Russia where, thanks to EU financial support, various identical promotion campaigns, with different constraints, are taking place.

Italy, which applies rules established by DG Agriculture, is widely authorized to promote European extra virgin olive oils, while Spain, which applies rules established by DG Regional, is authorized to solely promote Spanish products. The result is that Spanish promotion campaigns have advantages over Italian campaign because of the multiplier effect and all this is made at Italy’s detriment.

“Defacto, producers’ money and Italian taxpayers are supporting the Spanish campaigns in India, China and Russia,” declares Mr. Fiorillo, CEQ President. “It’s a paradox, but it’s exactly the tangible consequence of a lack of coordination between the two EU Directions. We are not interested in charging or blaming someone. We are simply interested in justice done and we know that Italian Minister of Agriculture, Mario Catania, is struggling a good fight in Brussels to redress the damages done to Italian producers because of Union policies.”

During the meeting, Mr. Mauro Meloni, CEQ Director, displayed slides containing images of the Spanish campaign in India, China and Russia where, through community funds, Spain is trying to divert consumers’ purchase from Italian to Spanish brands.

“More than six months ago CEQ brought to Brussels and Italian authorities attention the competition troubles due to the concomitant realization of two promotional programs. Even with AGEA and Italian Ministry of Agriculture support, the EU bureaux haven’t settled the question” declared Mr. Meloni. “The case of the Spanish campaign ‘Olive oil from Spain’ financially supported by EU, is just an example but might be repeated for other products and in other European countries, more and more interested in advantages offered by FESR funds.”

“The Italian Ministry has claimed the suspension of the ongoing programs in order to minimize the damages to Italian producers and citizens, compelled to support a program which is counterproductive for Italian economy,” declares Mr. Fiorillo. We wouldn’t like Agriculture DG officers, unaware of what Regio DG officers were doing, are too busy to reciprocally fight as regards their competencies, forgetting the taxpayers’ problems.”

“We rely on the political sensitivity of Mr. Cioloş to whom the paradox cannot pass unnoticed. Two European conflicting rules cannot exist because they would originate rifts within the European producers, rift that would deteriorate the common European sentiment”

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This article was last updated November 23, 2014 - 2:30 PM (GMT-5)

  • Peter McFarlane

    No mention of the economic damage caused in new world olive oil producer countries by trade distorting EU policies.

    • Massimo Occhinegro

      European Union provide for his members, other Countries provide for themselves.

  • oliveoilguy

    Production subsidies, storage subsidies, taxpayer funded promotional campaigns and they are still complaining!

    Here’s a solution. If the big Italian bottlers came clean and put “Product of Spain” on their labels then both promotional campaigns will work for them.

    It’s probably mostly German money anyway.

    • Massimo Occhinegro

      Dear “olive oil guy”, sorry for telling you that your comment is “absurd”. 
      E.U. is the Union of 27 European Countries, like USA is a Federation of 50 States.

      If Italy or Spain or Greece, for instance, have their subsidies , first are money of all the european citizens; secondly even the other Countires such as France or Germany obtain the same subsidies for other cultivations. 

      The problem is to harmonize the system. It is not possible that some are for promoting one Country production while another is to promote only the European products. 

      It is the crucial problem of EU. Or we are EU or we have to play our role separately.

      Regarding the second provocative aspect: The “art” of the italian “bottlers”, using your wrong definition, is the peculiar skill which someone wants to forget, unique in the world, to arrange a sapient mix between the best extra virgin olive oils coming from Spain, Italy, Greece, but also from Tunisia, Morocco, Argentina etcetera.

      In Spain they use mainly spanish olive oil; in Greece happens the same and also in Tunisia, Morocco etcetera.

      In addition mix often is required for respecting all the specifications of EU and IOOC requirement for selling the product worldwide.

      Each olive, each land have their peculiar characteristics and sometime are out of specifications. 

      In fact some Countries outside Europe often claim with IOOC when they fix some parameters.

      Another story are the pesticides used some of that are strictly prohibited in some foreign Countries.

      Selling olive oil seems to be an easy job but if you should take into consideration all the specifications, it becomes a difficult job.

      Concluding I would like to remind you that Italy is world famous for “espresso”. But Italy obviously has not any coffe bean production. Why? For the sapient usage of coffe beans coming from several cultivation in the world.

      The same happens for other products. Italy has not enough quantity for covering their domestic needs and also export needs. 

      Your opinion, frankly speaking, is absolutely wrong, provocative and not pertinent with the important issue reported by CEQ.Thank you for your attention.

      • oliveoilguy

        Firstly I’m Richard Gawel twitter name @8b0b9907e336a3589bd18f65509bad18:disqus .

        A taxpayer funded subsidy is a taxpayer funded subsidy regardless of what crop it is given to.

        Subsidies are unsustainable, they distort markets by creating oversupply and low prices, and perhaps most importantly they promote inefficient production practices. Lastly they contribute to bankrupting efficient producers elsewhere, while slowly bankrupting themselves in the process.

        Re the view that it takes great skill and know-how by Italian blenders to put all those wonderful EVOO’s blends onto supermarket shelves across the globe.

        What rubbish. Most of the supermarket oils from the EU that we see here in Australia are ordinary at best, junk at worst.

        From my local supermarkets in Adelaide Australia here are the acidities of those skillfully blended oils:

        0.4%, 0.6%, 0.7%, 0.7%, 0.7%, 0.8% #

        In short – ok, junk, junk, junk, junk and more junk.

        Would you be proud of making or blending oils with those acidities Massimo? And no, transportation or storage isn’t the cause. FFA doesn’t change that much after packaging. Few are naive enough to fall for that old excuse anymore.
        And I won’t go into how ordinary to awful they tasted.

        The EU blenders can take as much credit for that “unique skill” as they like. If they are blending to produce the poorest oil that can still be called extra virgin olive oil then they are close to being perfect.

        (# you can go to my blog to get the details, just google my name)

        • Massimo Occhinegro

          Richard, first of all , thank you for having disclosed your full name.

          Let me say two opposite things: you are right and you wrong. Of course as yours this is my opinion.

          The matter is complex. I will try to introduce only few topics.

          Why are you right? I agree that subsidies are not in general a good thing. I’m not talking about international competition or about possible market distortion due to subsidies given by EU to farmers.

          It is out of our will and control. Too big for me.

          I think that subsidies stop the business capabilities of farmers. They are not stimulated to invest because they can lean on the subsidies. It is a vicious circle.

          Probably it is good for a short time but not good in the long run. But for instance in the Southern part of Italy we have monumental olive trees which we should preserve because we have to preserve our historical territory.

          It is really expensive to produce a good olive oil and in case it is , the market doesn’t recognize the value of this olive oil. In such case I think that some public subsidies should be given.

          In any case , believe in me, subsidies are not granted for bad price practices. The olive oil farmers due to these big subsidies often handled by big producers’ unions, don’t have a good level of income so that it is important to launch promotional campaigns for explaining the quality of olive oils, first of all extra virgin olive oil.

          The effort is for avoiding that olive producers could give up olive cultivation. In the deep countryside of Puglia ( the main region where olive oil is produced in Italy) I see everywhere solar cells plants in the land and it is not a good thing.
          In addition EU is giving subsidies for putting them. It is a contradiction. But I’m not a political. The only thing I can do is to criticize such system.

          The complaint of CEQ is another story. It is a judgement on how the subsidies are spent distorting a competition among Countries of the same European Union. You are an Australian guy and I can understand that you are judging the whole subsidy system but if the subsidies are given it is correct that should be spent in a right way.

          Regarding the acidity you should know well that it is not the unique ” quality index” . As expert olive oil taster you should know that there are a lot of olive oils even if they could have an acidity level of 0.6 , for example, which are better than others having 0.1 of acidity.

          There are a lot of parameters to be respected and among these , the last introduced , called : alkyl esters.