`Spanish Producers Call Moroccan Olive Oil Trade Deal a 'Disaster' - Olive Oil Times

Spanish Producers Call Moroccan Olive Oil Trade Deal a 'Disaster'

By Julie Butler
Feb. 29, 2012 11:22 UTC

Moroccan olive oil pro­duc­ers say Spain should not be so scared of a wider EU-Morocco free trade deal — at least for now — because the United States mar­ket is their main tar­get.

Spain’s olive oil sec­tor is in furor over the plan, which would elim­i­nate an EU cus­toms duty (cur­rently about €1.25 per kilo) on Moroccan olive oil and restrict to 2000 tons the amount of EU oil allowed to enter Morocco tar­iff-free.

The European Parliament rat­i­fied the pro­posal ear­lier this month by 369 votes to 225, with most of its Spanish mem­bers vot­ing no. There is now talk of a Spanish appeal to Europe’s Court of Justice.

Under the head­ing, Andalusian oil at the cross­roads,” national news­pa­per El País reports that the Andalusian Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Enterprises (FAECA) described the agree­ment as a dis­as­ter” for the Spanish olive oil sec­tor. Another agri­cul­tural orga­ni­za­tion, the UPA, said it would cause the loss of thou­sands of jobs and farms.

Agustín Rodríguez, UPA gen­eral sec­re­tary, at a press con­fer­ence last month.

It will be Moroccan imports that deter­mine the com­pet­i­tive­ness, prices and future of farm­ers in Andalusia because we won’t be able to com­pete with the slave wages in Morocco and…breaches of plant pro­tec­tion and food safety reg­u­la­tions,” claimed Agustín Rodríguez, UPA gen­eral sec­re­tary for Andalusia.

But from Casablanca, Othmane Aqallal, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Atlas Olive Oils, told Olive Oil Times that the US, not Europe, was the main export des­ti­na­tion of Morocco’s bulk olive oil.

The free trade agree­ment will not hurt European pro­duc­ers much in the short term. Moroccan exports to Europe have been low these last four years. We did not export more than 4000 tons per year to Europe. Morocco’s real export mar­ket for olive oil is the US, where last year it exported around 30,000 tons. However, in the long run, Europeans may suf­fer, rel­a­tively, if Morocco con­tin­ues to expand its olive plan­ta­tion sur­face like it did in the last five years,” Aqallal said.

As for bot­tled olive oil, the agree­ment would have very lit­tle impact because Morocco exports less than 5 per­cent of its olive oil in this for­mat, Aqallal said. Also, Morocco’s main exports of bot­tled olive oil are intended for the eth­nic Arab mar­ket. So with or with­out this free trade agree­ment, the eth­nic mar­ket is the tra­di­tional buyer of Moroccan olive oil.”

Moroccan pro­duc­tion soar­ing

According to International Olive Council (IOC) fore­casts, Morocco was set to dou­ble its olive oil pro­duc­tion to 150,000 tons in 2010-11 while world-leader Spain was expected to weigh in with 1.37 mil­lion tons.

Morocco plans to achieve olive oil pro­duc­tion of 340,000 tons by 2020. It is among the world’s biggest exporters of table olives and ranks about sixth or sev­enth for olive oil, with Italy one of its main buy­ers. In recent years some Spanish super­mar­ket chains have faced crit­i­cism for sourc­ing some of their store brand olive oil — often used as a loss leader — from Morocco.

United States

Last year the San Francisco Chronicle reported the con­cerns of Californian olive grow­ers over US agri­cul­tural aid to Morocco. Local grow­ers told the paper that California had been bat­tling Morocco and Spain for the black table olive and olive oil mar­kets in this coun­try for more than a decade.”

Morocco already has a free-trade agree­ment with the US.


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