Concerns about potential harm for European exporters from the proposed United States olive oil marketing order have been raised in the European Parliament by one of its Spanish Members.
In an as yet unanswered written question on October 23, María Auxiliadora Correa Zamora asked what the European Commission plans to do about the “non-tariff barriers.”
“A debate is taking place in the USA over the introduction of a Marketing Order for olive oil. If the Marketing Order is approved, a number of non-tariff entry barriers could be introduced, which would prove very damaging for EU olive oil exporters.”
“Has the Commission been in contact with the U.S. authorities over this matter? What is the Commission’s position? What measures will the Commission take to defend the interests of the European olive oil sector and prevent this law from being passed?” she wrote.
From Spain’s ruling conservative People’s Party (PP), Correa Zamora is a member of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade.
As reported in Olive Oil Times, the marketing order has become a hot issue in the industry. California producers say it could reduce the amount of poorly labeled and substandard olive oils arriving from overseas, leveling the playing field for local producers to compete with imported olive oils.
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But Gregorio López, head of the olive sector at Spain’s Coordinator of Agricultural and Livestock Organizations (COAG), fears the proposed restrictions will result in Spanish olive oils being “held up at customs.”
And Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment for the regional government of Andalusia, Luis Planas, has threatened to go to the World Trade Organization if the U.S. persists with measures he said pose “unfair competition” and involve “vested interests” trying to close ports to Spanish olive oil.
Market leader Italy accounts for about half of all olive oil sold to the US. Spain comes second with about a quarter of sales but is gaining share from Italy, mainly via bulk oil. The U.S. is Spain’s second biggest olive oil market after Italy.
Spain had a record harvest of 1.6 million tons of olive oil in 2011/12, of which it exported about 875,900 tons, the latest Olive Oil Agency figures show. Its carryover stocks of 690,800 tons exceed the dismal output of just over 625,000 tons it expects this season.