Italian farmers say recent rounds of funding were directed mainly to their competitors in Spain, Greece and Portugal.
The last three rounds of European Union funds directed to olive oil growers did not take into account what is happening to Italian olive oil prices and only consider price turmoils in other countries.
That is the core of mounting discontent in Italy among olive farmers here, directed both to their E.U. representatives and the European Commission itself.
Once again our European representatives proved their activity to be disconnected to the needs of their own country.
In the midst of a sharp downfall in olive oil prices hitting all major European markets, Italian olive oil growers feel discriminated against.
“In Italy, we have seen extra virgin olive oil price collapse by almost fifty percent in just ten months and, in the exact moment we denounce this troubling situation, here comes the European Union with new funding rounds for olive oil farmers in which only Spain, Greece and Portugal are nominated,” read a strongly worded statement issued by Confagricoltura, the Italian association of farmers and olive oil producers.
The association was referring to the storage funds issued since last November in three different rounds by the European Commission. The tender procedures began with a sentence that infuriates some Italian farmers: “Prices for virgin olive oils on the Spanish, Greek and Portuguese markets have remained consistently low.”
“Just by reading this one can understand that the representatives of these three countries in Europe have been smarter and more interested in the well being of their citizens than our own representatives,” the farmers’ group said.
The wording of those procedures, though, is not the only reason farmers in Italy feel shortchanged.
The funding by the EU was meant to prevent at least some of the olive oil produced within the E.U. from directly entering the market. Being in a period of great turmoil, with prices going down practically everywhere, olive oil storage funding may help to sweeten the pill and slow the pricing collapse.
Not in Italy, say growers and distributors. They point out that the first of the three tender procedures issued since November did not take into account any extra virgin olive oil storage funding while providing funds only to lower quality olive oil producers.
“With high-quality olive oil one of the main characteristics of Italian production, it is easy to understand why no Italian farmers won any funds,” the growers said.
It was no better with the second round. Extra virgin oil once again received no funds while participating in the tender procedures required even more bureaucracy. The third round, held just a few days ago, did include high-quality olive oil, but for a price equal to that of lower quality oils.
In a market troubled by a sharp fall of oil prices, most extra virgin oil producers now feel left alone. The E.U aid for 2020 largely ends in the hands of Spanish, Greek and Portuguese growers, while ignoring a major swath of Italian olive oil producers.
“The European Union for three times in a row has forgotten that one of the main olive oil producers in its own territory is Italy,” said Mario Damiani, a farmer in central Italy who has had to face the collapsing price for his extra virgin olive oil, in an interview with Olive Oil Times. “Where are our elected representatives in Europe? What about the Government?”
“Once again we lost a chance to better react to a difficult market situation,” the farmers association Confagricoltura concluded. “Once again our European representatives proved their activity to be disconnected to the needs of their own country.”