`New Zealand Says "No Thanks" to New Olive Oil Standards

Australia / NZ

New Zealand Says "No Thanks" to New Olive Oil Standards

Jul. 24, 2011
Curtis Cord

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While Aus­tralian olive oil pro­duc­ers cel­e­brated the adop­tion of a new set of vol­un­tary stan­dards that will make it more dif­fi­cult for Euro­pean exporters to do busi­ness there, its sib­ling on the other side of the Tas­man Sea isn’t along for the ride.

What started out last year as the Draft Australian/New Zealand Stan­dard for Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil dropped the New Zealand” part when it was final­ized Wednes­day by Stan­dards Aus­tralia.

In an undated opin­ion piece for a New Zealand super­mar­ket indus­try mag­a­zine, Kather­ine Rich, CEO of the New Zealand Food & Gro­cery Coun­cil said gro­cers there feared that if New Zealand went along and adopted the new stan­dards, olive oil pro­duc­ers from the Mediter­ranean, which pro­vide over 95 per­cent of all olive oil sold in New Zealand, will strug­gle to meet the new rules as drafted.“

That would­n’t upset Aus­tralian pro­duc­ers who pushed for the new stan­dards. Like their U.S. coun­ter­parts, Aus­tralian olive oil has been cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the grow­ing con­sumer mis­trust brought on by highly-pub­li­cized stud­ies crit­i­cal of imported olive oils and sen­sa­tional broad­casts like the prime­time seg­ment this week on Aus­trali­a’s Today Tonight with Aus­tralian Olive Asso­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Paul Miller. Now with its new home field advan­tage, Aussie EVOO is on a seri­ous roll.

Unless major Aus­tralian retail­ers choose to ignore the vol­un­tary guide­lines — unlikely accord­ing to most indus­try insid­ers — for­eign pro­duc­ers and bot­tlers will need to change the way their olive oil des­tined for Oz is labelled: Words like Pure” and Light” are not allowed, refined olive oils need to be clearly marked as such, and coun­try of ori­gin claims have to be sub­stan­ti­ated, among other new rules.

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New Zealand’s 4.2 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion makes it about the size of the state of Ken­tucky, not exactly a do-or-die mar­ket for Mediter­ranean olive oil pro­duc­ers. Aus­tralia, on the other hand, with 22 mil­lion and a grow­ing appre­ci­a­tion for good olive oil, is not a mar­ket Old World pro­duc­ers want to see slip away.

Aus­tralian olive oil expert Richard Gawel com­mented in a Twit­ter mes­sage that New Zealand’s super­mar­ket indus­try stance would have been bol­stered by the sup­port of the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil and importers — tough oppo­nents requir­ing a con­certed effort New Zealand olive oil did­n’t seem to have. Gawel called New Zealand’s deci­sion to pass on the new olive oil stan­dards the prod­uct of super­mar­ket inter­ests over con­sumers.”

Olive oil pro­duc­ers in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, which are not IOC mem­ber coun­tries, have long held that exist­ing IOC rules do not ade­quately pro­tect the region’s con­sumers and pro­duc­ers.

In Feb­ru­ary, the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC) issued a state­ment rec­om­mend­ing a recon­sid­er­a­tion, call­ing parts of the pro­posed stan­dards pos­si­ble bar­ri­ers to inter­na­tional trade” that could actu­ally make olive oil adul­ter­ation eas­ier”.

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