EU Helps Sustainable Growers in Spain, But US Tariffs on Table Olives Loom

As Europe helps farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices in olive groves, the legality of proposed U.S. tariffs on Spanish table olives is contested.

Dec. 14, 2017
By Daniel Dawson

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Olive farm­ers in Andalusia are await­ing a €10.6m wind­fall from the region’s autonomous government.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development promised the money to olive pro­duc­ers in 2016 to help them imple­ment sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural tech­niques. According to Rodrigo Sanchez Haro, olive cul­ti­va­tion is an impor­tant part of Andalusia’s econ­omy and help­ing farm­ers, in turn, helps the rest of the economy.

The clo­sure of the U.S. mar­ket for exports of Andalusian black olives is endan­ger­ing two mil­lion wages.- Rodrigo Sanchez Haro, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development

What is good for the field is good for you,” Haro said. Agricultural aid con­tributes to obtain­ing qual­ity pro­duc­tion, pro­tects the envi­ron­ment, guar­an­tees income lev­els and boosts (the economy).”

Almost 8,000 olive grow­ers will pre­sum­ably ben­e­fit from the envi­ron­men­tal aid pack­age, which is aimed at pre­vent­ing ero­sion and soil degra­da­tion in olive groves as well as increas­ing the organic mat­ter con­tent of the soil.

The aid pack­age is part of a larger European Union ini­tia­tive to reward farm­ers for sus­tain­able prac­tices. The EU has already pro­vided more than €34m to the region for this purpose.

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In 2016, more than 15,000 olive pro­duc­ers were recip­i­ents of the aid package.

In order to receive the aid, olive pro­duc­ers must agree to fol­low a strict set of envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies for at least five years. These include replac­ing chem­i­cal-based fer­til­iz­ers with nat­ural ones and plant­ing native shrubs among olive groves.

According to Haro, 73 per­cent of these pro­posed poli­cies have already been achieved.

A spokesper­son from La Aceitera Jaenera, an Andalusian olive oil com­pany that works closely with local olive pro­duc­ers, said the major­ity of olive grow­ers in the autonomous com­mu­nity are receiv­ing the aid. This will help olive grow­ers man­age their costs for the upcom­ing harvest.

The aid is paid through the Junta de Andalucia, by the European Union to all olive farm­ers who meet the estab­lished require­ments, which is the major­ity,” the spokesper­son said. Normally the aid is used by the farm­ers to pay the expenses of har­vest­ing; for the new har­vest that will start soon.”

For this and other rea­sons, the spokesper­son said that the aid will not affect olive oil prices.

Haro believes that the money will help the Andalusian olive indus­try at a time of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has pro­vi­sion­ally decided to impose new tar­iffs on Spanish table olive imports in order to pro­tect domes­tic pro­duc­tion in California. The U.S. val­ues its rela­tion­ships with Spain, but even friendly coun­tries must play by the rules,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross report­edly said.

Europe claims that its sup­port to Spanish pro­duc­ers is con­sis­tent with World Trade Organization rules because it does not tar­get a sin­gle indus­try or product.

We met with (gov­ern­ment offi­cials and local olive pro­duc­ers) to ana­lyze the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and con­tinue with coor­di­nated actions in defense of the table olive sec­tor, the legal­ity of European aid received by the sec­tor, and the jobs it gen­er­ates,” Haro said.

The clo­sure of the U.S. mar­ket for exports of Andalusian black olives is endan­ger­ing two mil­lion wages, 300 com­pa­nies and around 8,000 jobs, mainly in the region of the Sierra Sur de Sevilla.”





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