One Year After EU Allows Duty-Free Tunisian Imports, Italian Producers Assure Strict Controls

Assitol is pushing for transparency to dispel concerns over duty-free Tunisian imports while proposing the extension of computerized monitoring and supporting the new inter-trade organization to ensure more product guarantees.

Angelo Cremonini
Mar. 16, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto
Angelo Cremonini

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On the basis of an agree­ment signed one year ago with the aim to sup­port the Tunisian econ­omy after ter­ror­ist attacks, the European Union has so far imported 7,000 tons of olive oil from the North-African coun­try, accord­ing to the last European Commission mon­i­tor­ing report on the impact of the mea­sure which allows the impor­ta­tion of 35,000 tons per year with­out duties until the end of 2017.

The level of sur­veil­lance of the olive oil sup­ply chain is very high.- Angelo Cremonini, pres­i­dent of the Olive Oil Group of Assitol

In prac­ti­cal terms, the action did not gen­er­ate a flood­ing of the European mar­ket with for­eign olive oil, which many oper­a­tors feared at first.

Italy has to import olive oil from other EU coun­tries in order to meet mar­ket demands,” the pres­i­dent of the olive oil group of the Italian asso­ci­a­tion Assitol, Angelo Cremonini told Olive Oil Times. 

Only 10 per­cent of imports come from non-European coun­tries, includ­ing Tunisia. Still, it is impor­tant to recall that our coun­try can count on the national agri­cul­tural infor­ma­tion sys­tem (SIAN), which also guar­an­tees the trace­abil­ity of wine,” Cremonini said.

The SIAN, in fact, mon­i­tors all the stages of the product’s life, which are doc­u­mented in the stock records of com­pa­nies, and elec­tron­i­cally ver­i­fi­able by the indus­try reg­u­la­tory bod­ies, from the mill to the trader of bulk prod­uct. Thanks to this elec­tronic net­work, the legal author­i­ties have been able to dis­cover and block sev­eral attempts at counterfeiting.

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Over the past two years, the SIAN allowed us to tackle the so-called paper-oil frauds’ — namely those based on false doc­u­men­ta­tion,” said Cremonini. Furthermore, the com­put­er­ized sys­tem pro­vides the pre­cise scale of the olive oil pro­duc­tion, which is a fun­da­men­tal tool in the pre­ven­tion of poten­tial scams.”

On this basis, the Italian olive oil indus­try asso­ci­a­tion has pro­posed to the EU to extend the oblig­a­tion of imple­ment­ing the SIAN sys­tem through­out Community. Assitol launched the dis­cus­sion within the International Olive Council and found Spain open to the pro­posal; nev­er­the­less, the debate on such a com­plex issue is at an early stage.

The pres­i­dent of the asso­ci­a­tion pointed out that, in Italy, nine con­trol bod­ies super­vise the pro­duc­tion of olive oil: The Central Inspectorate for the pro­tec­tion of qual­ity and fraud pre­ven­tion of food prod­uct (ICQRF); the for­mer State Forestry Corps, now merged in the Carabinieri; the Anti-adul­ter­ation and Health Unit (NAS) and the Antifraud Unit (NAC) of the Carabinieri; the Financial Police; the Customs Agency; the local health author­i­ties (ASL); the Regional Agencies for the Environmental Protection (ARPA) and the pub­lic health lab­o­ra­to­ries (LSP).

Moreover, (most) olive oil com­pa­nies have inter­nal pro­to­cols to offer gen­uine and safe prod­ucts: Basically, strict con­trols are car­ried out at all stages. Tens of thou­sands of olive oil sam­ples are ana­lyzed,” Cremonini noted. Controls are not lim­ited to chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and sen­sory ana­lyzes required by law, but also include addi­tional analy­sis to assess the qual­ity and purity index of each sample.”

We can still improve,” Cremonini con­sid­ered. However, the level of sur­veil­lance of the olive oil sup­ply chain is very high. Also, we strongly sup­port the new inter-trade orga­ni­za­tion Italian Olive Oil Chain’ (FOOI) which has the goal to con­nect the indus­try, the asso­ci­a­tions of pro­ducer orga­ni­za­tions and the mar­ket and pro­cess­ing groups includ­ing Assitol, Aipo, Cno, Unapol, Unasco, Unaprol, Federolio, Aifo and Assofrantoi.”

Our objec­tive is to coop­er­ate more and more closely with the super­vi­sory bod­ies, with the aim of over­com­ing the remain­ing crit­i­cal issues in the fight against frauds,” he concluded.


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