`Barjol: Without U.S., We'd Be 'Drowning in a Sea of Olives' - Olive Oil Times

Barjol: Without U.S., We'd Be 'Drowning in a Sea of Olives'

Apr. 17, 2012
Julie Butler

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Jean-Louis Barjol (file photo)

The world is poised for an olive oil glut of more than 1.1 mil­lion tons this year, accord­ing to updated International Olive Council esti­mates.

With farm gate prices already at a nine-year low, the IOC says Spain’s bumper har­vest will push end-of-year stocks up to the equiv­a­lent of more than a third of annual world consumption.

Speaking in Madrid at the World Bulk Oil Exhibition, IOC exec­u­tive direc­tor Jean-Louis Barjol said on Thursday that revised IOC fore­casts for 2011/12 set world pro­duc­tion at 3.31 mil­lion tons, up from the 3.09 mil­lion tipped back in November. The sea­son opened with 0.8 mil­lion tons in stocks and global con­sump­tion should total 3.08 mil­lion tons, up from just under 3 mil­lion in 2010/11 and largely on the back of increased demand in the United States.

U.S. the sector’s sav­ior”

The U.S. has been for many years been the dri­ver of the olive oil sec­tor,” Barjol said. Thanks to the U.S., the sec­tor has been able to grow with­out drown­ing in a sea of olives.”

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Nevertheless, global pro­duc­tion has risen more than con­sump­tion, hence the world stock of olive oil is grad­u­ally grow­ing.” This would be partly off-set next year, how­ever, with a drop in pro­duc­tion in the wake of Spain’s drought this win­ter, he said.

Growth in bulk over bottled

In a closer look at the U.S. mar­ket, Barjol said that though bot­tled Italian olive oil dom­i­nated imports into the U.S., an inter­est­ing trend was that Spain was gain­ing mar­ket share, and doing so via bulk — not bot­tled — vir­gin olive oil.

He said the IOC would be keenly watch­ing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quality Monitoring Program, which now cov­ers olive oil prod­ucts. It was among ele­ments help­ing main­tain con­sumer con­fi­dence in the qual­ity of the prod­ucts,” he said.

Italy. mean­while, remains the biggest importer in Europe. That’s because over many, many years Italy has devel­oped superb know-how in mak­ing olive oil blends of a recog­nised and con­sis­tent qual­ity and in sell­ing them world-wide,” Barjol said.

As reported Friday in Olive Oil Times, he said mar­ket research showed a promis­ing trend in China — instead of regard­ing olive oil as an exotic gift for friends, peo­ple were increas­ingly buy­ing it to use themselves.

The IOC already has pro­mo­tion cam­paigns under­way in coun­tries includ­ing the U.S. and China, another is soon to start in Brazil, and Japan is the pro­posed tar­get of a cam­paign to start late this year.

Pricing puz­zle

Comparing olive oil with com­mod­ity prices for other edi­ble oils such as soy, corn, palm and cot­ton­seed, Barjol said it was clear that it cost more, which is nor­mal, because it’s not the same as the other edi­ble oils, it has attrib­utes that they don’t.”

There’s a need here for us all to edu­cate con­sumers about why a cer­tain price needs to be paid for this prod­uct,” he said.

But while prices for the other oils tended to move as a group, fluc­tu­at­ing at more or less the same time, olive oil was puzzling.

Why is it that when prices for all the other oils are on the increase, the price of olive oil doesn’t move, yet when all the oth­ers fall, it falls?”

False fraud claims?

Asked after his pre­sen­ta­tion what more should be done to reduce fraud and mis­la­belling, Barjol told Olive Oil Times that he didn’t think the prob­lem was as bad as some made out.

I’m not say­ing that there is none hap­pen­ing but I’m say­ing give me evi­dence with judi­cial assessment.

Some peo­ple are mak­ing claims to try to bet­ter sell their own oil.”

We are look­ing for robust sci­ence,” he said. It was for sim­i­lar rea­sons the IOC was con­sid­er­ing orga­niz­ing ring tests to check var­i­ous chem­i­cal test­ing meth­ods, partly as ground­work for next year’s Codex Committee on Fats and Oils meet­ing. The IOC remained very proud of its sen­sory test­ing method, he stressed.

Differentiate or die

Barjol said stud­ies by Spain’s Olive Oil Agency showed that on aver­age the cost of pro­duc­tion in the coun­try was higher than the prices paid to farm­ers. This meant that mar­ket adjust­ment was inevitable and at some point pro­duc­tion would stop in some of Spain’s tra­di­tional olive groves.

Those whose land has a steep incline will have a big prob­lem and only one solu­tion. They can’t mech­a­nize so they will have to try to value-add by cap­i­tal­iz­ing on her­itage value or dif­fer­ent olive vari­eties if they want to com­pete,” he said.

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