French Trade Group Rebranded

While the name of France’s national olive oil association is changing the mission remains largely the same; promote local varieties and keep groves productive enough to maintain small farmers.

Laurent Bélorgey
Aug. 21, 2019
By Daniel Dawson and Pablo Esparza
Laurent Bélorgey

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France’s inter-pro­fes­sional asso­ci­a­tion of the olive sec­tor is under­go­ing a name change, ditch­ing the acronym Afidol in favor of the more sim­ple France Olive.

We decided to rename Afidol as France Olive this year to cel­e­brate its 20th anniver­sary,” Laurent Bélorgey, the pres­i­dent of France Olive and an olive oil pro­ducer in Vallée des Baux, told Olive Oil Times. Twenty years is the age of rea­son and we thought it was the time to relaunch it”.

We have made a clear bet to pro­duce oil from our ancient olive cul­ti­vars and we’ve real­ized that the main chal­lenge is to make them pro­duc­tive enough.- Laurent Bélorgey, pres­i­dent of France Olive

Bélorgey said that the state of the olive oil pro­duc­tion sec­tor is steadily improv­ing in France. In the pre­vi­ous crop year, France pro­duced 5,900 tons of olive oil, accord­ing to data from the International Olive Council. This year, Bélorgey esti­mates that pro­duc­tion will be about 5,500 tons.

The sit­u­a­tion of the pro­duc­tion of olive oil in France is rather good now,” he said. But we must know that we have come a long way for this.”

See Also: Olive Oil News from France

During the 1990s and first half of the 2000s, France pro­duced an aver­age of 3,300 tons of olive oil per year, with annual pro­duc­tion steadily increas­ing from 1,000 tons in the 1990/91 crop year to 7,000 tons in 2008/09, which remains the record high.

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But the last 12 years we’ve had pretty good har­vests and now we have a sat­is­fy­ing level of pro­duc­tion,” Bélorgey said.

Since the 2008/09 crop year, France has pro­duced an aver­age of 4,900 tons per year, a fig­ure that would be higher if it were not for the dis­as­trous crop year in 2014/15. Due to a vari­ety of fac­tors, France pro­duced just 1,700 tons of olive oil that year, the low­est yield since 1993.

Laurent Bélorgey

The main chal­lenge now for French pro­duc­ers is to dis­tin­guish their olive oils from regional com­peti­tors. Compared with its Mediterranean neigh­bors, France has a much smaller amount of land on which olive cul­ti­va­tion is viable – mostly along the south­ern coast­line – so it will never out-pro­duce the likes of Spain, Italy, Portugal or Greece. Therefore, Bélorgey believes that focussing on pro­duc­ing tra­di­tional vari­eties is the way for­ward for French pro­duc­ers.

The main chal­lenge for an olive oil pro­ducer in France it to make our local vari­eties pro­duc­tive enough,” he said. We have made a clear bet to pro­duce oil from our ancient olive cul­ti­vars and we’ve real­ized that the main chal­lenge is to make them pro­duc­tive enough.”

France has seven pro­tected des­ig­na­tions of ori­gin (Appellations d’Origine Protegée) and one con­trolled des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin (Appellation d’Origine Controlléé). The size of those pro­tected areas varies from the 16 vil­lages included within the lim­its of the Vallée des Baux – one of the small­est pro­tected areas – to the 434 belong­ing to the AOC of Provence.

Bélorgey and the rest of the sec­tor are bet­ting that this strat­egy of pro­duc­ing lower yields of local and dis­tinc­tive olive oils will allow French pro­duc­ers to sur­vive regard­less of their size or pro­duc­tion tech­niques.

The vast major­ity of olive oil pro­duc­ers in France are small, fam­ily oper­a­tions with an aver­age of fewer than 25 acres of land. There are only a few large scale oper­a­tions that exceed 100 acres.

We often say that there are some 20,000 olive pro­duc­ers in France,” Bélorgey said. But that fig­ure ranges from the small pro­ducer who has just a few olive trees in his gar­den and who takes his olives to the local coop­er­a­tive to the pro­fes­sional who cul­ti­vates 20 or 30 hectares (50 or 75 acres).”


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