The move comes after a previous effort to provide extra virgin olive oil to families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic sparked controversy, with farmers asserting that the effort favored imported oils over Italian ones.
Extra virgin olive oil will soon be included in the aid packages being distributed to families in need and to those who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Italian Minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova has confirmed that €20 million ($23.6 million) will be spent on “100 percent Italian extra virgin olive oil” for the project.See Also: COVID-19 Updates
The extra virgin olive oil will be bought through public tenders. A wide network of volunteers and caregivers will then distribute the aid packages, which also include other essential foods, to those in need.
During a recent session in the Italian Parliament, Bellanova emphasized that the food-aid emergency fund as a whole is worth a total of €300 million ($354 million).
Bellanova added that the olive oil food chain has been facing several major challenges and the fund will also help the sector through these difficult times. She said that the money also will be spent “avoiding food waste” and supporting networks of local volunteers.
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During the session, the Italian minister also addressed a heated controversy, which erupted last week regarding a separate €8‑million ($9.4‑million) tender to buy extra virgin olive oil for families in need.
The terms of the Agency for Payments in Agriculture’s (AGEA) tender do not specify that the oils have to be of Italian origin. Additionally, the price set by the tender is €3.20 ($3.77) per liter, which many Italian olive oil producers consider to be too low.
“Italian olive oil producers are stepped on by the state spending €8 million for an olive oil which will certainly not be Italian because there is no Italian extra virgin olive oil that can cost less than €3.20 per liter,” Onofrio Spagnoletti Zauli, from the Restart association, said.
However, this assertion was dismissed by Bellanova.
“That tender derives from the criteria imposed by European regulations,” she said. “Those terms ask for the extra virgin olive oil to be produced by olives grown, pressed and packaged within the European Union. That is due to the fact that those funds come from the FEAD [the European Fund for Aid to the Most Deprived].”