A sector agreement was signed in Rome by the organization of farmers Coldiretti, the olive oil producer’s consortium Unaprol, the trade association Federolio and the promoter of Italian products FAI S.p.A., including the main Italian bottling companies.

A camouflaged Italian-sounding which aims to waste the extraordinary and unique Italian variety of monocultivar, PDO, PGI and organic olive oils which constitute the real wealth of Italian olive growing.- Gennaro Sicolo, national consortium of olive growers CNO

The deal – announced at Palazzo Rospigliosi during a conference titled “segment to develop: new prospects for consumption and demand” promoted by Federolio – will cover 10,000 tons of olive oil, with a supply chain value of over €50 million.

According to Coldiretti, the settlement is aimed at “ensuring the safety and diffusion of 100 percent Italian olive oil, while stabilizing the economic conditions for sales.”

Starting from the current olive oil campaign, the pact is intended to “guarantee the stability and economic sustainability of the farmers who take part in it.” A key provision calls for “a price threshold sufficient to cover the costs for production and traceability of the supply chain, with the possibility of an increase based on qualitative parameters.”

The objective of the agreement according to its stakeholders is “to defend production, ensure the sustainable use of the territory, enhance the distinctiveness, ensure the right distribution of value among all parts of the supply chain, reconstruct an identity of the country system and regain market shares.” Moreover, it aims “to bring together Italian companies and defend them from the attacks of multinationals which acquire Italian brands to exploit their image on national and international markets and give an appearance of ‘Italianity’ to foreign productions.”

During the conference held at Palazzo Rospigliosi, it was stated that the wholesale price of the aforesaid volume of olive oil would be set at about €4/kg. Then, the secretary general of Coldiretti, Vincenzo Gesmundo, launched a proposal for a new type of blend called ‘Italico’ which, if it is approved, would consist of 50 percent Italian olive oil and 50 percent of olive oil from EU and non-EU countries.

In spite of the motivation of the initiative’s promoters, who described it as a groundbreaking and patriotic act, this provoked many reactions in the industry among producers’ organizations and consumer groups.

The Italian olive oil industry association Assitol issued a press release stating that the ‘Italico’ blend would divide the oil sector without helping consumers. “Blending is an important asset of the olive oil industry,” said the president of the Association’s olive oil group, Anna Cane. “However, the proposal for the ‘Italico’ as it was designed and presented raises doubts in the industry and it is liable to confuse consumers.”

For Assitol, the protection of the 100-percent Italian olive oil should follow other paths. “The promotion of local extra virgin olive oil must be played according to the principles of quality, genuineness, traceability and food safety,” Cane argued, adding that “in the midst of a consumer crisis, a positive storytelling of extra virgin olive oil is essential, especially since it is often the victim of an information with scandalous connotations.”

“For these reasons, we did not really feel the need for a new reason for the fragmentation of the olive oil world,” the president of the association’s olive oil group remarked. In this regard, Assitol reiterated the importance of a shared path between all the players in the sector. “We look forward to any initiative to promote extra virgin olive oil, on condition that it is inclusive and open. Therefore, we reaffirm the role of the new interprofessional organization FOOI, which was founded to unite, not to divide, the different souls of the olive oil sector,” Cane concluded.

Severe criticism was also expressed by the national consortium of olive growers CNO. “This agreement is an attack on the Italian extra virgin olive oil, on the producers of our country and the health of consumers,” said the president Gennaro Sicolo, who did not mince words on the new measures.

“The seriousness of this initiative results from the fact that some companies try to get to the clearance of oil blends composed by Italian, EU and non-EU olive oils, which have always been rejected by the world of production,” Sicolo said. “According to (the agreement), the work of olive growers is worth about 4 euros per kg, which is well below the cost of production, considering 4.80 euros per kg in the south, 7 euros per kg in central Italy, and 9 euros per kg in the north,” he observed.

“We will oppose in any way this plot that the president of Federolio called ‘Italico’ — a camouflaged Italian-sounding which aims to waste the extraordinary and unique Italian variety of monocultivar, PDO, PGI and organic olive oils which constitute the real wealth of Italian olive growing,” Sicolo continued, while an online petition was launched by the CNO against the ‘Italico.’

The organization of producers Unasco also rejected the agreement. “Against this initiative, we demand the intervention of the Government and the Parliament, to defend the rights of citizens and consumers to transparency and to genuineness,” the president Luigi Canino told the magazine Teatro Naturale.

“Words are important and the olive oil market needs true words and genuine and transparent products,” he said. “We are committed to offering consumers 100 percent made in Italy olive oils, among which every person can choose their own, aware of buying a real Italian product from olive trees cultivated in Italy with olives pressed in Italy,” Canino declared.

“We will do everything in our power to stop the bargaining of Italian extra virgin olive oil in the name of the profit of the few. Italians and consumers all over the world have the right to enjoy the quality and nutraceutical characteristics of our oil,” he concluded.

Unaprol, in turn, said the safeguard of the 100 percent Italian olive oil is the fundamental condition of any agreement. “The measure will attach the full importance to quality, rewarded with price increases ranging from 0.30 to 0.60 euros based on parameters of sustainability,” said president David Granieri.

“These are significant incentives for the olive growers, which start immediately in view of the 2018-2019 oil campaign that is expected to be complex due to the frosts of February,” he added. “It becomes clear that in such a situation, with the sector in difficulty and in loss of market shares, it is necessary to try to build a new model starting from the supply chain.”

But despite the reassurances from the initiative’s promoters, criticism showed no sign of diminishing, while the daily newspaper Italia Oggi reported that one of the reasons behind the agreement was to save producers’ organizations from a crisis in sales.

At the time of writing, Coldiretti launched the following press release:

“There is no reference to the name ‘Italico’ nor to blends of Made in Italy extra virgin olive oils with those imported from abroad in the largest sector agreement of all time signed by Coldiretti, Unaprol, Federolio and FAI S.p.A. (Filiera Agricola Italiana), which involves the main Italian packaging companies.

The signatory organizations have made it known that it is a fake news that is widespread to try to hit a historic agreement for 100% Italian oil, from olives grown and milled in Italy, which covers a quantity of 10 million tons for a value of the supply chain contract of over 50 million euros, which cuts off intermediaries, speculations and fixers.

This is a fake news, more or less self-serving, for interests that have nothing to do with the good of Made in Italy and of thousands of consumers and agricultural entrepreneurs who are interested in freely evaluate the opportunities and the conditions offered by a contract with a minimum guaranteed price and finally the possibility of a multi-year productive planning.”


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