`Greek Proposal to Mix Oils a 'Cause for War'

Europe

Greek Proposal to Mix Oils a 'Cause for War'

Mar. 3, 2014
Marissa Tejada

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A Greek farmer dri­ves home with his fresh pressed olive oil in bar­rels near Alyki, Greece. (Matthias Schrader)

Many Greeks involved in the olive oil indus­try are in an uproar over a pro­posal pre­sented to the Greek gov­ern­ment to blend their prod­uct with cheaper oils like soy­bean, corn and sun­flower oil. If imple­mented, sup­port­ers claim it would help boost the country’s weak econ­omy.

Increas­ing Com­pe­ti­tion

The Hel­lenic Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion pre­sented the Greek par­lia­ment with their pro­posal which included pro­duc­ing cheaper blended olive oil that would be labeled as such. So far, the Greek gov­ern­ment is not mov­ing ahead with it. How­ever, the very con­sid­er­a­tion of the idea has upset many com­mit­ted to the indus­try, on many lev­els.

The health of Greek peo­ple is bet­ter than in the other places in the world and that is proven in stud­ies. The main rea­son is olive oil which is what our very diet is based on,” said Vas­silia Fra­gaki, the Pres­i­dent of Coop­er­a­tiva Sitia which is a union of extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers on the Greek olive oil pro­duc­ing island of Crete. In an inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Fra­gaki said the pro­posal is a seri­ous issue when you con­sider that the eco­nomic cri­sis could com­pro­mise health.

Def­i­nitely we are against view­points like cheap oils. In Greece, we still pro­mote gath­er­ing raw food. We are plant­ing our own veg­etable gar­dens and of course pro­duc­ing and con­sum­ing nat­ural extra vir­gin olive oil.”

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As it stands, it is against the law for Greek olive oil pro­duc­ers to blend their olive oil with other oils. The Hel­lenic Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion based their find­ings on research by the Orga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Coop­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD) which is an inter­na­tional eco­nomic orga­ni­za­tion founded to stim­u­late eco­nomic progress and world trade. The OECD con­cluded there are ben­e­fits to the pro­posal. For exam­ple, blended cheaper oils would be more afford­able to low-income fam­i­lies.

Fevro­nia Patri­anakou

Dur­ing a ses­sion in Greek par­lia­ment, the Deputy Min­is­ter for Rural Devel­op­ment, Max­imus Charakopou­los, said that the pro­posal would cre­ate a more com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment for Greek olive oil pro­duc­ers. We aspire in this way to close the gap in the price of pro­duc­tion to the store shelf.”

In response, Greek MP, Fevro­nia Patri­anakou, said the OECD pro­posal is, a cause for war.” Dur­ing the par­lia­ment ses­sion she also said, We strive to high­light the qual­ity fea­tures of our prod­ucts. There is no way we should accept pro­pos­als that dis­tort the truth of what really makes it on the store shelf.”

Blended in the Mar­ket

I am really won­der­ing how much cheaper oils can be made,” said Efthimios Chris­takis, who spe­cial­izes in pro­mot­ing and mar­ket­ing Greek olive oil in Ger­many. He pointed out that blended oils have been on the mar­ket for years and are sold at a low price point already. Allow­ing blended Greek oils in the mar­ket will do noth­ing but harm the Greek olive oil indus­try, an indus­try that has been slowly build­ing up in a pos­i­tive way.

For years now we have made and con­tinue to make a big effort so that Greek olive oil can build its rep­u­ta­tion in the global mar­ket and really show off its iden­tity, one that is asso­ci­ated with qual­ity.”

That iden­tity comes from a strong base. The Greek olive oil cul­ture dates back to ancient times and today Greeks con­sume the most olive oil in the world, about 18 liters per per­son, each year. How­ever, due to weak brand­ing and mar­ket­ing efforts, Greece’s qual­ity excess olive oil is usu­ally trucked off and sold as a bulk prod­uct to be mixed with olive oil from coun­tries like Italy and Spain.

Con­cen­trat­ing on qual­ity, rather than cheap blends, is very impor­tant. Qual­ity is what will lead us to bet­ter pric­ing and reduce the bulk. In the process Greece can increase its hold in the mar­ket for the bot­tled and branded prod­ucts.”

More than Money

Fra­gaki said the health ben­e­fits, proven to derive from pure Greek olive oil are enough to under­stand just how unique the prod­uct is, a prod­uct that shouldn’t be tainted with.

This should not be ignored. The king of oils is the extra vir­gin olive oil. It is a trea­sure.” She pointed out the dif­fer­ence, explain­ing that the invest­ment in con­sum­ing a few spoons of high qual­ity Greek olive oil ver­sus buy­ing a large plas­tic pack­age of a cheap blend is worth the ben­e­fits for any con­sumer and that should be the value.

Chris­takis agreed. He also high­lighted that Greek olive oil remains a sym­bol of cul­ture and health and a part of daily con­sump­tion for the Greek peo­ple. Those are just a few more rea­sons the idea of a blended ver­sion should be be tucked away, per­ma­nently.

My opin­ion is that Greeks should focus aggres­sively on the right qual­ity and pro­mot­ing Greek olive oil’s authen­tic iden­tity. We should let other coun­tries, where they sim­ply do not have a large amount of extra vir­gin olive oil, mar­ket the fake mixes and chem­i­cal inno­va­tions.”


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