More than 20 plants involved in the production or packaging of olive oil or table olives in Spain were found to have no system of product traceability, according to the 2010 – 2011 annual report from the country’s olive oil watchdog.
The Olive Oil Agency (AAO) made the discovery as part of its inspections — including 907 spot checks, hundreds of cross-checks of accounts and 441 samples of olive oil — among the country’s 1,742 active olive oil mills and related plants that olive season.
The recently-released report says the AAO informed the relevant regional governments so they could take appropriate action. Of the 21 reports sent, 9 went to Catalonia, 5 to Andalusia, 4 to Castilla-La Mancha, and 3 to Aragon.
The AAO had said in its 2008 – 2009 report that the implementation of effective traceability systems was “of great importance for the future of the sector.”
In its latest report, the AAO says that in 2010 – 2011 it recommended seven fines totalling €11,200 be made against operators it found to lack required stock movement records or not to have sent it a monthly report on their product movements. This was down from the 25 fines totalling €256,378 it proposed in 2009 – 2010 and nine totalling €40,267 in 2008 – 2009.
Of the seven proposed fines, three corresponded to Andalusia (two to table olive processors and one to a refinery), three to Murcia (two to table olive processors and one to a table olive packer), and one to an olive oil plant in Castilla-La Mancha.
A total of 219 proceedings, down from 263 a year before, were also started against members of the sector who failed to pay obligatory contributions to the relevant industry body for promotion and research activities: 190 cases for the Interprofessional of Spanish Olive Oil and 29 for the Table Olive Interprofessional Organization.
Exports were also booming in 2010 – 2011
The AAO, which cost €4.96 million ($6.14m) to run in 2010 – 2011 and had 86 staff, said Spain’s total olive oil production that season was 1.39 million tons, the fruit of more than 6.79 million tons of olives with an average yield of 20.43 percent, down from 21.43 percent the previous season. Of this, 827,900 tons of olive oil were exported and 554,100 tons sold within Spain. Stocks stood at 474,100 tons at season end.
The market was “very inconsistent” the AAO said, with “strong demand and a lot of sales but very low prices.”
In his introduction to the report, Spain’s Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Cañete highlighted that the country’s olive oil exports had grown for each of the last four seasons, repeatedly breaking records.
“With increasing volumes of production and a mature domestic market that is undergoing a serious crisis of demand, export trade is critical for our interests.” he said.
He added that he hoped the imminent legislation in Spain on the food sector value chain would help boost internal demand for olive oil, which “still has a wide margin for improvement”.