On the September 19 the European Parliament in Brussels hosted an event titled “towards a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the con­sump­tion of olive oil.” It was inspired by Copa Cogeca, the EU agri­cul­tural union rep­re­sent­ing over 13 mil­lion European farm­ers and 38,000 coop­er­a­tives.

The aim was to pro­mote the con­sump­tion of high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil by ensur­ing that con­sumers are pro­vided with trans­par­ent infor­ma­tion. In order to achieve this, a sys­tem of rules and qual­ity cri­te­ria must be adhered to and pro­moted.

Parliament Members Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos (Pt, S&D) and Sergio Silvestris (I, EPP) out­lined the fun­da­men­tal mea­sures to bet­ter inform con­sumers of the qual­ity of the prod­uct and of the dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and qual­i­ties that exist for olive oil, such as under­stand­able labels, and the clear indi­ca­tion of the ori­gin of the prod­uct.

Copa-Cogeca Secretary General Pekka Pesonen observed “In spite of the dif­fi­cult mar­ket sit­u­a­tion, pro­duc­ers and coop­er­a­tives have made a great deal of effort and made big invest­ments to improve the qual­ity of olive oil, yet this has nei­ther been rec­og­nized by the mar­ket, nor con­sumers. It is cru­cial that the Commission moves ahead with imple­ment­ing the EU Commission Action Plan to improve the via­bil­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness of the EU Olive Oil Sector.  Farmers need bet­ter returns from the mar­ket in order to improve the sus­tain­abil­ity of this type of pro­duc­tion, espe­cially as it is mainly found in areas hit by the eco­nomic crises.”

The key event was also the occa­sion to rat­ify Italy’s trace­abil­ity achieve­ment, which mainly results from the Unaprol activ­ity, Italy’s largest con­sor­tium of olive oil pro­duc­ers.

According to the EU reg­u­la­tions on pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions, the European Union is to allo­cate at least 12 per­cent of the resources to finance the trace­abil­ity mea­sure. Italy has achieved its goal, through the 600 Unaprol olive pro­duc­ers’ net­works, which group together seven thou­sand cer­ti­fied com­pa­nies, and over 70 per­cent of the oil pro­duc­ing net­works listed in Italy.

The ini­tia­tive came a few weeks after the agree­ment on the reform of the Agricultural Policy dat­ing back to June 26, which will go into effect January 1, 2014.

As Massimo Gargano, pres­i­dent of Unaprol, pointed out, “this agree­ment offers new tools and oppor­tu­ni­ties for olive oil.” He added that “with respect to the ini­tial propo­si­tions, Italy was able to improve some crit­i­cal ele­ments, and more pre­cisely the green­ing com­mit­ments, which did not acknowl­edge the envi­ron­men­tal role of olive groves and the inter­nal agree­ment. This made it pos­si­ble to choose a smoother tran­si­tion from the his­tor­i­cal sys­tem of aid to a new one, which allo­cated them in a more bal­anced fash­ion.”

This can also have pos­i­tive con­se­quences on mar­kets, where the bat­tle is focused on con­ve­nience, and one of the main strate­gies – also backed by Unaprol – is e‑commerce. In 2012, the e‑commerce seg­ment gen­er­ated a sales turnover of about €305 bil­lion ($412 bil­lion), with a 20 per­cent increase over the pre­vi­ous year.

Pietro Sandali, gen­eral man­ager of Unaprol, remarked, “thanks to high qual­ity stan­dards, to the tech­nol­ogy devel­op­ment and to the cor­rect imple­men­ta­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies, the national oil pro­duc­tion sec­tor rep­re­sented by Unaprol can already count on a wide­spread and cer­ti­fied trace­abil­ity of the tastes typ­i­cal of the Italian ter­ri­to­ries. This sys­tem rep­re­sents a chal­lenge, but also a great oppor­tu­nity to over­come the mar­kets cri­sis.”


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