Spanish and Italian Producers Share Successes, Challenges at Duel Summits

Olive oil producers and experts gathered for dueling meetings in Sevilla and Rome to examine the challenges of the rapidly changing global olive oil market.

Jan. 3, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

Recent News

Olive oil pro­duc­ers and experts gath­ered for duel­ing meet­ings in Sevilla and Rome last month.

In Seville, a panel of five experts con­cluded that Spanish olive groves are doing well, but warned against com­pla­cency.

The recov­ery of domes­tic con­sump­tion can only be achieved through pro­mo­tional cam­paigns that empha­size the healthy char­ac­ter­is­tics of olive oil for the human body.- Eduardo Martín, Asaja

The group included Silvia Capdevilla the deputy direc­tor gen­eral of the Ministry of Agriculture; Pablo Lería, head of the Food Department of Extenda; Álvaro Olavarría, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Oleoestepa; Victorino Vega, tech­ni­cal adviser of the IFAPA Alameda del Obispo de Córdoba; and Manuel Cera, the com­mer­cial direc­tor of Todolivo.

The Spanish olive grove is in good health,” the panel con­cluded. Although the sec­tor should take advan­tage of the cur­rent boom period to con­sol­i­date its posi­tion and work harder toward over­com­ing its chal­lenges.”

The experts touted the qual­ity of their olive oil, the region’s com­mit­ment to inno­va­tion, its envi­ron­men­tally friendly pro­grams and com­pet­i­tive nature. However, they also warned against emerg­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the export mar­ket and urged pro­duc­ers to be proac­tive in the fight against Xylella fas­tidiosa.


Meanwhile, mem­bers of the Italian Association of the Olive Oil Industry (Assitol) gath­ered to dis­cuss a much needed revi­tal­iza­tion of the nation’s olive oil indus­try. Assitol mem­bers fret­ted over declin­ing domes­tic con­sump­tion, decreased pro­duc­tion and increased com­pe­ti­tion from around the globe.

Assitol pres­i­dent, Angelo Cremonini, said that over­all qual­ity remained as high as ever, but the nation’s his­toric olive oil cul­ture was wan­ing.

Although still cen­tral to our tables, olive oil has expe­ri­enced the cri­sis of con­sump­tion and it con­tin­ues to do so,” Cremonini said. Olive oil is indeed a glob­al­ized prod­uct, but also triv­i­al­ized in its daily use, treated as a com­mon condi­ment.”

According to the International Olive Council (IOC), olive oil con­sump­tion in Italy decreased by 14 per­cent in the 2016/17 crop year. Only Greece and France expe­ri­enced larger drops in con­sump­tion.

Similar sen­ti­ments were echoed in at the meet­ing in Sevilla. Álvaro Olavarría, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of Oleoestepa — a coop­er­a­tive of extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers — warned that the triv­i­al­iza­tion of Spanish olive oil was respon­si­ble for domes­tic decreases in con­sump­tion.

Spain expe­ri­enced a seven per­cent decrease in olive oil con­sump­tion dur­ing the last crop year. The IOC pre­dicts olive oil con­sump­tion will rebound in the com­ing crop year, but to a lesser degree than last year’s drops.

Eduardo Martín, the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Seville Agricultural Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA), said olive oil has been a fat accepted for many years by Spanish con­sumers. He believes the key to increas­ing con­sump­tion is through bet­ter mar­ket­ing.

The recov­ery of domes­tic con­sump­tion can only be achieved through pro­mo­tional cam­paigns that empha­size the healthy char­ac­ter­is­tics of olive oil for the human body,” Martín said.

Pablo Lería, the head of the food depart­ment of Extenda, an Andalusian trade pro­mo­tion agency, said that despite decreased con­sump­tion, over­all qual­ity was as high as ever among Spanish extra vir­gin olive oil.

Extra vir­gin olive oil is the type that makes up the major­ity of Spanish exports and is how the indus­try is pre­sented out­side our bor­ders,” he said. Seven of the ten best extra vir­gin olive oils in the world today are Spanish.”

Spanish pro­duc­ers earned 109 awards at the 2017 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

However, Lería did not hide his con­cern of Spain’s notice­able decrease in olive oil exports to rival, Italy. Spain cur­rently exports 30 per­cent of its olive oil to Italy. Ten years ago, this fig­ure was 40 per­cent and demand for the quin­tes­sen­tial Spanish com­mod­ity con­tin­ues to decrease.

Back in Rome, Cremonini also warned Italian pro­duc­ers about the olive oil export mar­ket. He said that new com­pe­ti­tion from abroad threat­ened tra­di­tional trade rela­tion­ships. Countries such as Argentina, Australia, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States have become emerg­ing olive oil exporters.

We are risk­ing rel­e­ga­tion. The mar­ket today wit­nesses the advance of new play­ers,” he said. For years, we pre­ferred to look at (the tra­di­tional olive oil exporters rather than the emerg­ing ones) and decide together what oppor­tu­ni­ties of the mar­ket were there to be exploited. Now, we must make up for lost time.”

Despite these stark warn­ings, Cremonini said that Italy remains well placed in the world olive oil mar­ket because of its qual­ity prod­ucts.

We have to work on qual­ity oil,” Cremonini said. Where qual­ity must finally be under­stood as a good prod­uct, rich in hints and fla­vor and, at the same time, prof­itable for the entire sup­ply chain”.

According to fig­ures from Assitol, Italy’s olive oil indus­try made $3 bil­lion last year and its oils have the high­est IGP and DOP cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in Europe. These two cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are good indi­ca­tors of qual­ity awarded by the European Union (EU) to ver­ify that the olive oil was made exactly where and how the label indi­cates it was.

Italian pro­duc­ers were awarded more awards than those of any other coun­try at the 2017 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The mar­kets around the world are demand­ing a qual­ity prod­uct,” David Granieri, pres­i­dent of the Italian Olive Oil Interprofessional Organization, said. While com­pe­ti­tion from other coun­tries is grow­ing and is increas­ingly com­pet­i­tive thanks to com­mer­cial prac­tices that, at times, encroach on ille­gal­ity.”

Granieri said that aggres­sive com­mer­cial behav­ior, trade restric­tions and fake news are used by new” olive oil pro­duc­ers to pro­mote their brands on the world mar­ket.

A trade spokesper­son from the European Commision (EC) said she was unaware of any ille­gal trade prac­tices going on regard­ing olive oil within the EU.

Granieri said that none of these prob­lems for the Italian sec­tor are likely to go away any time soon and that the way for­ward is empha­siz­ing Italian brands as well as work­ing with the European Commission to ensure there is a level play­ing field for all pro­duc­ers.

Recognizability, dis­tinc­tive­ness, bio­di­ver­sity all char­ac­ter­ize the Italian offer on the world mar­ket and are declined accord­ing to the con­tin­u­ous evo­lu­tion of a sec­tor that requires ade­quate struc­tures and leg­is­la­tion to move with the times,” Granierei said. It is also impor­tant to inform con­sumers about the nutri­tional qual­i­ties of the prod­uct, often not cor­rectly per­ceived.”

Back in Spain, Martín called on the EC and all olive oil pro­duc­ing nations to work together and abide by the rules set by the IOC.

It is essen­tial that all olive oil pro­duc­ing coun­tries play with the same rules of the IOC, and to achieve this, an effort by the European Commission itself is essen­tial to inten­sify con­tacts,” he said.

And con­vince the rest of the coun­tries out­side of the EU about the neces­sity of hav­ing a homoge­nous and objec­tive norm for all processes and char­ac­ter­is­tics of olive oils, world­wide.”


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