`Spanish Producers Fear Imminent U.S. Import Restrictions - Olive Oil Times

Spanish Producers Fear Imminent U.S. Import Restrictions

Oct. 24, 2012
Charlie Higgins

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A har­vester at California Olive Ranch

Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers are up in arms over the unfair” and absurd” mar­ket­ing order being con­sid­ered in the United States Congress they fear would place heavy restric­tions on the impor­ta­tion of olive oils, accord­ing to La Rioja.

The United States, which imports more olive oil than any coun­try in the world, pur­chased a total of 61,470 tons from Spain in 2011. The top oil-pro­duc­ing state of California pumps out approx­i­mately 10,000 tons annu­ally — a fig­ure dwarfed in com­par­i­son to the 276,000 tons imported each year, mostly from Spain and Italy– but pro­duc­ers in the Golden State have ambi­tions to pro­duce much more than that.

The mar­ket­ing order was first pre­sented last January at a con­fer­ence in Dixon, California and has since become a hot issue in the indus­try. California pro­duc­ers say the mar­ket­ing order could reduce the amount of poorly labeled and sub­stan­dard olive oils arriv­ing from over­seas, lev­el­ing the play­ing field for local pro­duc­ers to com­pete with imported olive oils.

Meanwhile, the North American Olive Oil Association, com­prised of major importers and dis­trib­u­tors, called the new ini­tia­tive an attempt to restrict trade by com­pletely elim­i­nat­ing sev­eral cat­e­gories of olive oil, while also impos­ing rejected test meth­ods on the industry.”

Gregorio López, head of the olive sec­tor at Spain’s Coordinator of Agricultural and Livestock Organizations (COAG), said the steps being taken by the United States are, out of char­ac­ter” and an abuse” that has put olive oil pro­duc­ers on alert.”

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López said the orga­ni­za­tion is wary that the pro­posed restric­tions, which include enforc­ing 100 per­cent qual­ity con­trol of incom­ing prod­ucts (cur­rently only 5 per­cent is ana­lyzed) and stricter olive oil label­ing stan­dards, will result in Spanish olive oils being held up at customs.”

We must sit down with the Americans to see what they are doing. We must act with speed and agility and lay ground rules so that pro­duc­ers are not harmed.” López said.

Other indus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Spain pointed out that although the issue has been ongo­ing for months, it is just now heat­ing up on the eve of a close elec­tion in which President Barack Obama needs to pick up votes in California.

Jaime Garcia-Legaz

Though a deci­sion has yet to be made, Spain’s Minister of Commerce Jaime Garcia-Legaz has been mon­i­tor­ing the issue closely to pro­tect the best inter­ests of olive oil pro­duc­ers who have suf­fered major losses in recent years.

In March, Garcia-Legaz trav­eled to Washington where he met with USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro to dis­cuss Spain’s posi­tion on the matter.

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