` El País: The "Olive Oil Con"

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El País: The "Olive Oil Con"

Dec. 5, 2010
By Julie Butler

Recent News

By Julie But­ler
Olive Oil Times Con­trib­u­tor | Report­ing from Barcelona

Mas­sive fraud involv­ing infe­rior olive oil being sold as EVOO is the focus of an arti­cle in Spain’s El País news­pa­per today, Sun­day Decem­ber 5th.

Under a head­line equiv­a­lent to The Olive Oil Con”, Ginés Don­aire reports that analy­sis of 50 batches being sold as extra vir­gin olive oil in Andalu­sia, in Spain’s south, found that half were actu­ally of an infe­rior qual­ity.

The Span­ish mar­ket is cur­rently more con­cerned with quan­tity than qual­ity.- El País

Andalu­sian offi­cials were spurred to carry out the inspec­tion because of
the extra­or­di­nary low” price of some extra vir­gin olive oil being sold in the region. They are inves­ti­gat­ing fur­ther before nam­ing the com­pa­nies allegedly behind the fraud­u­lent label­ing.

While the infe­rior oil is said to be of no dan­ger to con­sumers’ health, Spain’s olive oil indus­try is very con­cerned about the dam­age to its rep­u­ta­tion and loss of pub­lic con­fi­dence.

Con­suelo Ariza, an agri­cul­tural engi­neer with Asaja-Cór­doba, an agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion, told El País that cur­rently half the extra vir­gin olive oil sold in Spain’s biggest super­mar­kets was of the generic (home) brand vari­ety. They sold this olive oil at a loss in order to get cus­tomers in the door, defray­ing the cost with sales mar­gins on other prod­ucts. The sit­u­a­tion was hardly triv­ial, she said, given that nine in ten bot­tles of olive oil in Spain are sold in such big super­mar­kets.

El País says there is a big imbal­ance in the value chain of Spain’s olive oil indus­try and a key fac­tor is that the bot­tling indus­try has become highly con­cen­trated. Just over twenty com­pa­nies bot­tle 80 per cent of national pro­duc­tion and the main ones also dom­i­nate dis­tri­b­u­tion.

The label­ing scan­dal is just another chal­lenge for Spain’s already strug­gling olive oil pro­duc­ers, who told El País that cut-price olive oil was increas­ingly mak­ing pro­duc­tion unprof­itable for them.

Pro­duc­tion is nev­er­the­less increas­ing in Spain. and with a focus on inten­sive cul­ti­va­tion, as in other coun­tries includ­ing Por­tu­gal, Morocco and Argentina. Some Span­ish com­pa­nies are tak­ing up incen­tives offered by the Moroc­can Gov­ern­ment, which wants to dou­ble the num­ber of olive grow­ing hectares in the coun­try by 2020.

The fraud dis­cov­ery coin­cided with the start this week of the olive har­vest in Spain. Mar­i­ano Pérez Claver, pres­i­dent of SOS, a lead­ing Span­ish olive oil bot­tler and dis­trib­u­tor, said it was an excel­lent year and he was opti­mistic about con­tin­ued steady increase in exports. Brazil and the United States are the mar­kets that, in
our opin­ion, have most poten­tial for growth.”

But El País ends on a warn­ing note, say­ing the Span­ish mar­ket is cur­rently more con­cerned with quan­tity than qual­ity” and faces a big unknown” as of 2013, when the EU must review the pro­vi­sion of more than 1 bil­lion euros (US $1.3 bil­lion) in annual agri­cul­tural sub­si­dies to Span­ish olive grow­ers. The future of extra vir­gin olive oil is at stake,” the arti­cle con­cludes.
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