`Musco Reaches Quota for Signing New Olive Grower Deals

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Musco Reaches Quota for Signing New Olive Grower Deals

Jul. 29, 2019
Daniel Dawson

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The Musco Fam­ily Olive Com­pany has announced that it will not be sign­ing any more con­tracts with olive grow­ers for the 2019/20 crop year.

The Cal­i­for­nia olive pack­ing com­pany orig­i­nally stepped in to pick up the con­tracts of olive grow­ers whose pre­vi­ous ones with Bell-Carter were can­celed back in March.

All of the new con­tracts are long-term and a min­i­mum of 10 years in length.- John Segale, Musco spokesman

Last week we reached our vol­ume tar­get, and, at this time, we will not be offer­ing addi­tional con­tracts for this crop year,” Den­nis Bur­re­son, the company’s vice pres­i­dent of field oper­a­tions and indus­try affairs, said in a press release.

A spokesman for Musco did not say how many con­tracts had been offered to grow­ers. We do not share con­tract num­bers,” John Segale told Olive Oil Times.

See more: Table Olive News

It remains unknown how many olive grow­ers’ con­tracts were orig­i­nally can­celed by Bell-Carter, which cited the need to com­pete in a global mar­ket­place and the increas­ing cost of pro­duc­tion for Cal­i­for­nia olives as two of the rea­sons why it had to cut loose many” of its Cal­i­for­nia sup­pli­ers.

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In its efforts to sign for­mer Bell-Carter sup­pli­ers, Musco gave pref­er­ence to farm­ers with at least 10 acres of olive trees. The com­pany ini­tially sent out ques­tion­naires to the affected farm­ers before fol­low­ing up with in-per­son vis­its to the farms.

Selected farm­ers were then offered long-term con­tracts by the com­pany. All of the new con­tracts are long-term and a min­i­mum of 10 years in length,” Segale said.

In spite of all the con­tracts Musco did sign, a con­sid­er­able num­ber of farm­ers were left with nowhere to sell their olives. Many of these were smaller olive farm­ers who con­tinue to har­vest by hand as opposed to a machine.

Among them was Ud Shanker, a grower in California’s Cen­tral Val­ley, who was con­tacted by Musco, but in the end, received no con­tract.

We did­n’t receive any con­tract for Musco,” he told Olive Oil Times. “[It’s] very dis­ap­point­ing. We’re going to lose the crop and nobody cares.”

Shanker is indig­nant that the United States gov­ern­ment has made $16 bil­lion avail­able to farm­ers who have been hurt by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s trade war but seem unwill­ing to help small farm­ers such as him­self.

We grow­ers are left to take all the losses with no gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies,“ he said. I have con­tacted the Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor, local offi­cials, and those in Wash­ing­ton D.C. All my emails were ignored.”

Shanker attrib­utes the can­cel­la­tion of his con­tract to DCoop’s pur­chase of a 20-per­cent stake in Bell-Carter last August. As part of the deal, Bell-Carter now sells more than 33,000 tons of table olives in the United States on behalf of the Span­ish giant, its for­mer com­peti­tor.

The move by DCoop and its Moroc­can part­ner, Devica, was widely seen as an effort for the coop­er­a­tive to avoid pay­ing U.S. tar­iffs on Span­ish table olives. This view was con­firmed by Anto­nio Luque, the cooperative’s pres­i­dents.

Bell-Carter denied this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the deal and also denied that the par­tial acqui­si­tion had any­thing to do with its can­cel­la­tion of the con­tracts.

How­ever, there may be some hope for grow­ers such as Shanker. Musco also announced that it would be offer­ing devel­op­ment con­tracts to grow­ers who are inter­ested in plant­ing mechan­i­cally har­vestable olive groves.

Those meet­ings with the affected farm­ers and their fam­i­lies were an excel­lent oppor­tu­nity for us to dis­cuss and share thoughts on the future of the table olive indus­try,” Bur­re­son said. The time has come to invest in mod­ern acreage to pro­duce both the high­est qual­ity ripe olives and the most eco­nom­i­cal source which will enable our indus­try to regain the food­ser­vice mar­ket lost over time.”


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