Apulian Producers Call for More Government Support for Olive Oil Sector

Olive oil prices in Puglia continue to slide despite lower production in 2020. Coldiretti believes the government must do more.
Jan. 15, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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Olive oil pro­duc­tion in Puglia has grown by 21 per­cent over the past decade despite a seem­ingly end­less bar­rage of chal­lenges.

Still, farm­ers in the south­west­ern Italian region, which accounts for more than half of Italy’s over­all pro­duc­tion, believe they would have fared much bet­ter if local and national author­i­ties had imple­mented a wide and thought­ful strate­gic vision for the devel­op­ment of the sec­tor.

We need to review the rela­tion­ships within the pro­duc­tion chain, involv­ing first of all the big­ger food retail­ers.- Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent, Coldiretti Puglia

To that end, grow­ers and pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tions are call­ing for a new coor­di­nated National Olive Plan.

In a press release, the farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti high­lighted how a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy has helped Spanish pro­duc­ers to bet­ter face the many chal­lenges of a chang­ing mar­ket.

Spain’s newly-enacted olive oil stor­age poli­cies and their coor­di­nated pro­mo­tional cam­paigns were cited as exam­ples of what Italy could be doing bet­ter.

The Italian Ministry of Agriculture recently pro­vided €5 mil­lion of relief to local grow­ers to cover inter­est pay­ments on loans granted before the end of 2018.

That is good news,” said Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent of Coldiretti Puglia. But we still need a coor­di­nated strat­egy for the ren­o­va­tion of the olive and olive oil sec­tor. We need a long-term plan to bet­ter face the fre­quent crises in the olive and olive oil mar­kets.”

While announc­ing the lat­est relief funds, the min­istry also acknowl­edged the need to relaunch pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness” within the sec­tor by sim­pli­fy­ing pro­ce­dures and reduc­ing bureau­cracy.”

We need to review the rela­tion­ships within the pro­duc­tion chain, involv­ing first of all the big­ger food retail­ers, because it is unac­cept­able to see extra vir­gin olive oil bot­tles sold on their shelves for €3.00,” Muraglia responded.

Coldiretti asked for bet­ter and wider super­vi­sion of the way in which olive oil is sold by retail­ers and mar­keted to con­sumers.

According to Coldiretti, super­mar­kets in Italy employ a num­ber of dif­fer­ent strate­gies in an effort to sell their prod­ucts, which are dif­fi­cult to com­pare with one another and often result in olive oil being sold at prices that are lower than pro­duc­tion costs.

In their release, the farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion asked for a quick imple­men­ta­tion of the new European rules against unfair mar­ket prac­tices (E.U. direc­tive 2019/633) by Italy in order to pre­vent imported prod­ucts from being sold as prod­ucts of Italian ori­gin.”

Coldiretti said that the European direc­tive could also help to re-estab­lish fair con­tracts along the food chain and to pun­ish prac­tices that mostly dam­age the pro­duc­ers.”

See Also: Olive Oil Business News

It is almost impos­si­ble to detect the true ori­gin of the olives on the bot­tles of extra vir­gin olive oil derived from for­eign farms, labels that are required by law,” Coldiretti said.

Those labels are used for the sale of three dif­fer­ent kinds of olive oil blends: blends from E.U. olives, blends from non‑E.U. olives or blends of E.U. and non‑E.U. olives.

Those labels are writ­ten with very small fonts and are placed on the rear of the bot­tle, a posi­tion that makes them not eas­ily seen,” Coldiretti said. Moreover, bot­tles with extra vir­gin obtained from for­eign olives are often sold with Italian brands and with great evi­dence of decep­tive images, phrases or names that recall the Italian spirit.”

Consumers should shop with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass in order to be able to make an informed choice,” the asso­ci­a­tion added.

Muraglia empha­sized that in spite of the sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion decreases expe­ri­enced by pro­duc­ers in Puglia, in which the olive yields fell to 101,000 tons, olive oil prices were unaf­fected.

This sec­tor has seen its value grow from last year, up to €650 mil­lion, a sec­tor which is among the most resilient in the cur­rent pan­demic,” he said. A small reduc­tion, 0.5 per­cent, hit inter­na­tional exports in the first nine months of 2020, when the strongest demand for bot­tled olive oil came mostly from the United States (+28 per­cent) and France (+42 per­cent).”

Once again, the farm­ers have asked for infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion cam­paigns, both at the regional and national lev­els, to strate­gi­cally pro­mote extra vir­gin olive oil.

According to Coldirertti, Italy remains the largest con­sumer of olive oil, with an annual aver­age of 504,000 tons in the last five years, fol­lowed by Spain with 483,000 tons and the United States with 320,000 tons.





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