World Olive Oil Exhibition Focuses on Doing Business in the U.S.

A theme of the two-day event in Madrid will be how to do business in the United States, the world’s top olive oil importer.

By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 15, 2018 15:16 UTC

More than 200 olive oil pro­duc­ers will gather in Madrid next month to check out com­peti­tors, do some busi­ness and dis­cuss preva­lent issues for the indus­try.

One of the over­ar­ch­ing themes of the two-day World Olive Oil Exhibition (WOOE) will be how to do busi­ness in the United States, the world’s num­ber one importer of olive oil.

The World Olive Oil Exhibition is an event mainly devoted to busi­ness and inter­na­tional stim­u­la­tion of com­mer­cial con­tacts.- Cristina Villar, WOOE

The WOOE is an event mainly devoted to busi­ness and inter­na­tional stim­u­la­tion of com­mer­cial con­tacts,” said Cristina Villar, a spokes­woman for the event. What is most impor­tant about the fair are the sub­stan­tial trans­ac­tions of olive oil buy­ing and sell­ing car­ried out at a global scale.”

Maria Reyes, the direc­tor of cat­e­gory man­age­ment at KeHE Distributors, will dis­cuss the trade bar­ri­ers, qual­ity expec­ta­tions and costs of import­ing to the U.S. She sees a lot of poten­tial for exporters as long as they are ready to meet the chal­lenges of the bur­geon­ing mar­ket.

In my opin­ion, the two biggest issues are that the mar­ket is flooded with cheap, poor qual­ity bad tast­ing oil and that the con­sumer is still very con­fused as to what type of oil they should be buy­ing,” she said.

Reyes said it is up to exporters and the olive oil indus­try as a whole to edu­cate American retail­ers and con­sumers, so they make the best deci­sions about what prod­ucts they are plac­ing on their shelves.

Demand for high-qual­ity oil is there, with pre­mium olive oil sales increas­ing in the U.S. over the past half decade. However, the com­pe­ti­tion is steep with coconut oil, avo­cado oil and ghee also com­pet­ing for a sim­i­lar mar­ket niche.

The right ques­tions should be asked and there should be a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process to ensure that what is being placed on the shelf is what the label says it is,” Reyes said. The con­sumers play a large role in this and have demon­strated that they are will­ing to pay more for a qual­ity prod­uct.”

Dave Neuman, CEO of Gaea North America, will fol­low Reyes and dis­cuss how to nav­i­gate the com­pli­cated American bureau­cracy once a com­pany becomes a dis­trib­u­tor in the States. In other coun­tries, such as Argentina, olive oil pro­duc­ers can sell directly to retail­ers. However, for for­eign com­pa­nies branch­ing out into the American mar­ket, this is not always pos­si­ble.

You don’t have that here in the U.S.,” Neuman said. You have to have an importer or you have to have an office in the U.S. Then you have to sell to a dis­trib­u­tor and then the dis­trib­u­tor sells to the retailer and the retailer sells to the con­sumer. That is a lot of chang­ing hands. It’s a lot of added cost.”

Neuman said it is impor­tant for for­eign com­pa­nies to under­stand these hur­dles, so they can con­tinue to com­pete in the United States’ grow­ing mar­ket. He also will be assuag­ing the fears of Spanish com­pa­nies with regards to the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion’s trade poli­cies.

President Donald Trump ran on an America First” for­eign pol­icy with the goal of low­er­ing the trade deficit. His admin­is­tra­tion has already imposed tar­iffs on Spanish table olives but has said it will not do the same with olive oil. Neuman believes that imported olive oil will remain tar­iff-free in spite of the administration’s ten­dency to change course on its orig­i­nal pol­icy plans.

California is such a small pro­ducer, pro­vid­ing less than eight per­cent of our US demand of olive oil, that it does­n’t really make sense to make a tar­iff on some­thing that we have to have,” Neuman said.

I haven’t heard any­thing to that effect because it’s not really pro­tect­ing any­one. Olive oil is already expen­sive and I don’t think any­one is going to want to see an addi­tional tar­iff to make the prod­uct even harder to use con­sid­er­ing the health ben­e­fits and attrib­utes of it.”

Other than dis­cussing the American mar­ket at the WOOE, Neuman said he is look­ing for­ward to see­ing how the olive oil sec­tor can become more tech­no­log­i­cally advanced. He said that he would like to see the use of drones and drone spray­ing to com­bat the olive fruit fly as well as more automa­tion in har­vest­ing.

I’d like to see there be a lit­tle bit more effort on auto­mated har­vest­ing for coun­tries such as Greece and Italy that don’t really have the ter­rain to do it,” he said. So I’m hop­ing we’ll see some robot­ics, some­thing to help alle­vi­ate some of the stress of har­vest­ing and also pro­tect­ing the crop from olive flies.”


However, busi­ness will be at the fore­front of many atten­dees’ minds as they crowd the Feria de Madrid on March 21 and 22. About 3,000 peo­ple attended the exhi­bi­tion last year and Villar said she expects that num­ber to be higher this time. Many of the atten­dees will be look­ing to make some deals as well as gain insight into the ever-chang­ing world of global trade.

Santiago Botas, the gen­eral man­ager of the WOOE, said the exhi­bi­tion presents an oppor­tu­nity for every­one to take stock of what is going on in the olive oil world and pre­pare for the numer­ous chal­lenges fac­ing the indus­try.

The seri­ous sit­u­a­tion fac­ing the olive oil indus­try, together with a sig­nif­i­cant imbal­ance between sup­ply and demand, low prices and decreas­ing sub­si­dies requires the imple­men­ta­tion of new mech­a­nisms to pro­mote a change in trends and a new trade order that is more open and trans­par­ent,” he said.

Neuman sees the exhi­bi­tion as an oppor­tu­nity to facil­i­tate trade and find solu­tions to some of the indus­tries prob­lems.

I think the expo is going to be excit­ing this year,” he said. WOOE or not, the con­ver­sa­tion about bring­ing qual­ity oil to America has to con­tinue.”


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