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Spain’s Olive Oil Watchdog Reports Increase in Violations

Aug. 12, 2013
Julie Butler

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Spain’s Olive Oil Watchdog Reports Increase in Violations

Spain’s olive oil watch­dog con­ducted 941 inspec­tions and took 420 olive oil sam­ples from among the country’s 1,744 active olive oil mills dur­ing the 2011/12 sea­son.

And in its lat­est annual report, the Olive Oil Agency (AAO) said its checks also included vis­its to more than 770 pack­ag­ing plants and reviews of stock move­ment records at 22 out of 24 active olive oil refiner­ies in Spain.

As a result, it rec­om­mended 17 fines total­ing €52,100 — up from seven fines total­ing €11,200 the pre­vi­ous sea­son — for plants found to lack required stock move­ment records, that had ceased to send the agency manda­tory monthly stock data, or had sent inac­cu­rate infor­ma­tion.

Of the 17 fines pro­posed, 12 cor­re­sponded to the province of Andalusia (four to olive oil mills and three to vir­tual oper­a­tors”), two to Castilla y León (both joint mills and bot­tlers), two to Catalonia (both table olive pack­ers), and one to an olive oil mill and bot­tling plant in Extremadura.

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Traceability lack­ing in 30 plants

The Madrid-based agency also found that 30 plants involved in the pro­duc­tion or pack­ag­ing of olive oil or table olives in Spain had no sys­tem what­so­ever to pro­vide trace­abil­ity for their prod­ucts, up from 21 in 2010 – 2011.

The AAO informed the rel­e­vant regional gov­ern­ments so they could take appro­pri­ate action. Of the 30 such reports sent, 10 went to Andalusia, 7 to Aragon, 5 to Catalonia, 5 to Extremadura, and 3 to Valencia.

Private stor­age aid

In the course of 2011 and 2012, and amid very low whole­sale prices for olive oil, the European Union approved pri­vate stor­age aid for the sec­tor over three dif­fer­ent peri­ods. It paid out a total of more than €36 mil­lion for the mea­sure, which sub­si­dizes the tem­porar­ily removal of stocks from the mar­ket in order to sta­bi­lize it.

But the agency said that dur­ing this period, “…this reg­u­la­tory instru­ment had no effect what­so­ever on prices, which only reacted in the fourth quar­ter amid the prospect of the next har­vest being very small.”

Olive Oil Agency mor­ph­ing into wider food con­trol

In his pref­ace to the report, Spain’s min­is­ter of Agriculture, Food and Environment Miguel Arias Cañete high­lighted the high vol­umes not only of olive oil pro­duc­tion in Spain in 2011/2012 — a record 1.6 mil­lion tons — but also of sales, par­tic­u­larly exports, and car­ry­over stocks.

Cañete also said the report was likely to be agency’s last as the Olive Oil Agency because as part of new food chain laws in Spain it would expand and be renamed the Food Information and Inspection Agency, extend­ing the suc­cess­ful model it had used to ensure trans­parency in the olive oil mar­ket” to other sec­tors, start­ing with the dairy indus­try.

The agency reported that it cost €4.5 mil­lion to run in 2011 – 2012 and had 83 staff, down from €4.9 mil­lion and 86 in 2010 – 2011.



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