`Are Designations of Origin Working for Italian Olive Oil? - Olive Oil Times

Are Designations of Origin Working for Italian Olive Oil?

Jul. 5, 2011
Luciana Squadrilli

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Almost twenty years have passed since the PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin, or DOP in Italian) was born in the European Union in 1992, and fif­teen since the first DOPs were applied to extra vir­gin olive oil in Italy in 1996. Time to take stock of the sit­u­a­tion, and to ask some uncom­fort­able yet nec­es­sary ques­tions: Is the PDO a real asset for olive oil? Does it help pro­duc­ers increase their rev­enues?

Unaprol (the Italian Olive Oil Council) and Federdop (the Italian DOP Consortiums’ Federation) tried to pro­vide answers through a com­pre­hen­sive report about the Italian olive oil PDO chain. The report included a sur­vey of a wide sam­ple of cer­ti­fied pro­duc­ers — 205 Federdop mem­ber farms – and offers a pro­file of the aver­age Italian PDO olive oil pro­ducer.

The most strik­ing result was that the PDO mar­ket in Italy only cov­ers 1 per­cent of the whole sec­tor of extra vir­gin olive oil. It could be a dis­ap­point­ing data but, as Unaprol Chairman Massimo Gargano stated, we are speak­ing about the very top of the Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion range.

Italy counts 39 DOP and 1 IGP (or PGI, Protected Geographic Indication) for olive oil, more than any other European coun­try, but the whole cer­ti­fied pro­duc­tion only mea­sures 10,000 tons. Of these, an impres­sive 42 per­cent comes form Tuscany (IGP Olio Toscano) and 21 per­cent from Apulia (DOP Terra di Bari). 6 per­cent has the DOP Umbria and 4 per­cent the Riviera Ligure label. The remain­ing 27 per­cent is shared between the other 36 Italian PDOs.

The PDO labelling has very dif­fer­ent eco­nomic rel­e­vance in the dif­fer­ent areas of Italy (e.g. Northern Italy ver­sus Southern Italy). The aver­age price for cer­ti­fied extra vir­gin olive oil is about 10 Euros/kg, but while some oils from the North (like Brisighella, Garda and Riviera Ligure PDO) largely exceed this amount, south­ern PDO oils like Terra di Bari do not make it to 4 Euros/kg.


However, Italian pro­duc­ers still seem con­fi­dent about PDO wor­thi­ness: fig­ures show that in 2010 the 52 per­cent of the sam­ple chose to increase the cer­ti­fied prod­uct and almost the whole sam­ple – 99 per­cent — decided to con­firm their choice for PDO.

64 per­cent of the respon­dents believe the PDO labelling increases the product’s value; 25 per­cent on the other hand choose the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in order to bet­ter sat­isfy a more demand­ing con­sumer, while 11 per­cent to sat­isfy the trade and retail’s requests.

Again, the pro­duc­ers’ insight about PDO influ­ence varies deeply across the coun­try: in the rich North-East 100 per­cent of the poll respon­dents reckon the PDO mar­ket is an expand­ing one, while in the Southern regions this aspect plunges to 35 per­cent, and 56 per­cent think it is dead­locked.

But who is the aver­age Italian PDO olive oil pro­ducer? The sur­vey shows how most of those inter­viewed are sole traders. Tenant farm­ers are 53 years old on aver­age, and 73 per­cent are male — but on Sicily and Sardinia, Italy’s main islands, women ten­ants account for 58 per­cent. As for the edu­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion, the great­est per­cent­age have a high school diploma, while 29 per­cent pos­sess a uni­ver­sity degree (up to 35 per­cent in Central and Southern Italy).

One last men­tion should be for the retail chain. 30 per­cent of packed PDO olive oil is sold through retail­ers sell­ing to the con­sumer, while 28 per­cent is sold through large-scale trade. It is worth high­light­ing that 17 per­cent is sold to the restau­rant indus­try, par­tic­u­larly to top restau­rants who play a major role in high qual­ity olive oil pro­mo­tion.

The PDO label does not solve all the prob­lems,” Federdop chair­man Silvano Ferri said, but it is a start­ing point to cre­ate a sys­tem of val­ues that includes land (ter­roir), tra­di­tions, cul­ture.” And Italy doesn’t really lack in any of those.

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