`Cioloş U-Turn Surprises Farmers' Union - Olive Oil Times

Cioloş U-Turn Surprises Farmers' Union

May. 23, 2013
Michael Angelopoulos

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The deci­sion by European Commissioner of Agriculture Dacian Cioloş to with­draw the ban on refill­able olive oil cruets in restau­rants did not put the genie back in the bot­tle.

The Commissioner announced that he will meet with inter­ested par­ties over the issues and acknowl­edged that there was a sharp con­trast in views by pro­duc­ing coun­tries and the con­sumers in the north, as he explained.

However, Cioloş seems to have sur­prised many if not every­one by the move.

The COPA-COREGA orga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing European farm­ers from 36 coun­tries posted a Twitter mes­sage yes­ter­day, about the Commissioner’s forth­com­ing announce­ment over the issue and express­ing sup­port for Ciolos (which has since been removed from the Twitter feed).

However, after the announce­ment, COPA-COREGA posted another update say­ing:

In yet another update, COPA-COGEGA blamed the Commissioner’s u‑turn on polit­i­cal pres­sure.”

The sit­u­a­tion in Greece

Meanwhile, the por­trayal by the Commissioner of the divi­sion among olive oil pro­duc­ers and con­sum­ing coun­tries does not per­fectly describe the sit­u­a­tion in Greece, which has had some expe­ri­ence with the mat­ter.

The Greek Federation of Restaurants and Similar Professions (POESE) told Olive Oil Times that two years ago they signed an agree­ment to run a pilot pro­gram in 20 restau­rants in Greece, to use only one-use bot­tles on their tables.

More Greek restau­rants adopted the prac­tice vol­un­tar­ily, offer­ing labeled olive oil prod­ucts of exclu­sive qual­ity as a ges­ture to vis­i­tors and dif­fer­en­ti­ate their prod­ucts from com­pet­i­tive coun­tries.

However, Giorgos Kourassis, General Secretary of POESE said, his orga­ni­za­tion rec­og­nized that it is a costly pol­icy which finally tum­bles over the price tag. Greek restau­rants, even in their refill­able bot­tles and jars, offer a high-qual­ity olive oil to their guests.”

In oil-pro­duc­ing Greece we have no inci­dents of adul­ter­ation,” and sub­se­quently no imme­di­ate need for the reg­u­la­tion amend­ment.

Reactions in Italy

First reac­tions in Italy enlighten the case and espe­cially the back­ground that led to the pro­posal for the reg­u­la­tion amend­ments in the first place.

Coldiretti (the National Confederation of Farmers), the largest asso­ci­a­tion rep­re­sent­ing Italian agri­cul­ture, strongly con­demned the change of course by the European Commission on ban­ning unla­beled olive oil bot­tles and cruets in restau­rants.

It said the move favored fraud and imports of cheap oil — at a time when domes­tic demand shows a decline of eight per­cent.

However, Coldiretti said domes­tic reg­u­la­tions on the qual­ity and trans­parency of olive oil bot­tles of vir­gin olive oil,” is still in effect for local busi­nesses as it has been since last February.

We intend to defend it from lobby pres­sures,” said the pres­i­dent of Coldiretti, Sergio Marini.

We must admit that European lob­by­ists won against a stan­dard which was sup­ported by as many as fif­teen coun­tries. Among them, major pro­duc­ers such as Italy and Spain, which lost against coun­tries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and UK, where you can’t grow a sin­gle olive tree,” he added.

According to Coldiretti, the national law estab­lished a rev­o­lu­tion on the tables” for the most-favored dress­ing of Italians, and estab­lished pro­vi­sions includ­ing the 18-month use-by date printed on the label, indi­ca­tions of ori­gin and a way to con­trol imports that do not meet the reg­u­lated spec­i­fi­ca­tions of olive oil.

Italy is the sec­ond largest pro­ducer of olive oil with about 250 mil­lion olive trees and a pro­duc­tion of over half a mil­lion tons. The indus­try employs peo­ple in 50 mil­lion work-days which trans­lates to €2 bil­lion,” said Coldiretti.

For us, it is a cul­tural as well as legal bat­tle. The with­drawn reg­u­la­tion by the Commission would have enabled us to improve the fight against fraud in the restau­rants’ mar­ket where con­sumers have the right to know what type of oil is used,” said the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Nunzia De Jerome.

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