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Production, Exports and Quality Main Issues for South American Producers

Representatives of the South American olive sector and government allies discussed the future of the sector, including the potential for an Olive Coordination Board for the Americas.

The capital city of Uruguay, South America
Jul. 5, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
The capital city of Uruguay, South America

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Del­e­gates and observers from the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil and other olive-oil-pro­duc­ing nations gath­ered at the Palace of San Martín in Buenos Aires recently to dis­cuss the prospects of the olive sec­tor in the Amer­i­cas.

The biggest chal­lenge this sec­tor faces is strength­en­ing the pres­ence of our olive oil and table olives in inter­na­tional mar­kets.- Mer­cedes Nimo, Pro Oliva

Del­e­gates from South Amer­i­can nations, specif­i­cally Argentina, took cen­ter stage at the event, which fol­lowed a week of meet­ings for the 107th ses­sion for the IOC’s Coun­cil of Mem­bers. Among the numer­ous top­ics being dis­cussed — includ­ing pro­duc­tion, exports and qual­ity — the idea of an Olive Coor­di­na­tion Board for the Amer­i­cas caused a stir of excite­ment.

We have a shared inter­est in and vision for olive oil pro­duc­tion across the Amer­i­cas,” María Cavero Romaña, a direc­tor of Pro Oliva in Peru, said. She posited that this hypo­thet­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion would serve a sim­i­lar pur­pose to that of the IOC, but specif­i­cally for South Amer­i­can coun­tries.

The idea was met with enthu­si­asm by Mer­cedes Nimo, the National Direc­tor of Food and Bev­er­ages and Bio-econ­omy at Argentina’s Min­istry of Agro Indus­try. She said it was an inter­est­ing idea since South Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers all have sim­i­lar prob­lems, goals and views of the sec­tor. The pro­posal has yet to be for­mally drafted or dis­cussed but could be a cru­cial step in the devel­op­ment of the South Amer­i­can olive oil sec­tor.

While she addressed the audi­ence, Nimo empha­sized the grow­ing impor­tance of agro-indus­tries, espe­cially olive oil, on the con­ti­nent. For her, expand­ing mar­ket share and increas­ing coop­er­a­tion between the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors are both keys for grow­ing the sec­tor.

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The biggest chal­lenge this sec­tor faces is strength­en­ing the pres­ence of our olive oil and table olives in inter­na­tional mar­kets,” she said. We need to under­stand the needs of olive oil pro­duc­ers and the state must pro­vide solu­tions.”

Nimo praised the coop­er­a­tion that is already going on and pointed out that the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sector’s joint influ­ence on increas­ing qual­ity has been work­ing. Last year, Argentina launched a Made in Argentina” cam­paign, offer­ing rebates on import duties for Argen­tine agri­cul­tural exporters who achieved the qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity stan­dards set by the ini­tia­tive.

More than one year into the cam­paign and we have seen a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment of olive oil qual­ity,” she said. This empha­sis on improv­ing qual­ity has increased our olive oil’s posi­tion­ing in the world.”

Another way in which Argentina is improv­ing qual­ity is by crack­ing down on fraud. Extra vir­gin and vir­gin olive oil qual­ity stan­dards have largely not been cod­i­fied into law in Argentina. But that is chang­ing.

We are mak­ing efforts to update reg­u­la­tory efforts for olive oil,” Nimo said. Argentina is not alone. Del­e­gates from both Chile and Brazil said that their coun­tries were work­ing hard to improve gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions per­tain­ing to qual­ity stan­dards as well.

As of 2014, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture started demand­ing olive oil pro­duc­ers fol­low cer­tain para­me­ters,” Fabio Florên­cio Fer­nan­des, the Direc­tor for the Inspec­tion of Plant Prod­ucts at Brazil’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, said. Since then, Brazil has invested in three lab­o­ra­to­ries to test olive oil and requires all pro­duc­ers to pro­vide sam­ples.

All olive oil exports now leav­ing Brazil are required to meet the government’s new min­i­mum olive oil stan­dards and receive a cer­tifi­cate of ori­gin. The con­se­quences of fail­ing to do so are stark, Florên­cio Fer­nan­des warned.

Those [pro­duc­ers who] do not com­ply will have their prod­ucts seized and the com­pany must pay a fine,” he said. The Min­istry now checks and ver­i­fies the ori­gin of all olive oil prod­ucts that are both exported and imported. We are also work­ing with the fed­eral police to do so.”

Part of the solu­tion, Florên­cio Fer­nan­des said, is work­ing closely with the Span­ish and Por­tuguese com­pa­nies that are export­ing olive oil to Brazil and mak­ing sure they are in com­pli­ance.

The other part of the solu­tion is tough enforce­ment. In 2016, the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment began a qual­ity con­trol cam­paign — code­name Oper­a­tion Father Christ­mas. Fed­eral police across 27 states col­lected 480 bot­tles of olive oil from 164 dif­fer­ent brands. About 10 per­cent were found to be fraud­u­lent or non­com­pli­ant.

The results of the raid were pub­lished on the Min­istry of Agriculture’s web­site in an effort to name and shame those pro­duc­ers who had failed to meet the qual­ity stan­dards.

Mean­while, Javiera Pefaur Lepe, who among other things is an indus­trial crops spe­cial­ist for the Chilean Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, admit­ted that there are no legal qual­ity stan­dards for extra vir­gin or vir­gin olive oil in Chile. At the moment, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture is work­ing on devel­op­ing vol­un­tary stan­dards and from their cre­at­ing legal stan­dards.

We are devel­op­ing qual­ity stan­dards that are vol­un­tary, but it is a first step for the sec­tor,” Pefaur Lepe said. We believe this will be a use­ful first step for the cre­ation of a law, which would be manda­tory.”

In order to cre­ate effec­tive leg­is­la­tion, she believes that the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors must con­tinue to work together. She pointed to the progress that the Chilean olive oil sec­tor has made when the two work together.

There is strong growth in Chilean olive oil pro­duc­tion capac­ity,” she said. For a coun­try as small as ours, this growth is com­mend­able.”

While efforts to improve qual­ity con­tinue, Chilean pro­duc­ers con­tinue to make the sec­tor increas­ingly effi­cient and estab­lish and main­tain new export mar­kets. In doing so, she believes Chile will soon be able to com­pete with larger and more estab­lished olive oil pro­duc­ers.

Chile’s large num­ber of free trade agree­ments allow our olive oil pro­duc­ers to enter many mar­kets,” Pefaur Lepe said. We seek to con­tinue to access new mar­kets and main­tain our pres­ence in already estab­lished mar­kets.”

Ulti­mately, Nimo believes that Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Peru can­not grow their sec­tors in iso­la­tion. As Euro­pean coun­tries have done, she believes South Amer­i­can coun­tries will need to work together to fos­ter the growth of the sec­tor across the con­ti­nent.

South Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers must work together and with the IOC to inform con­sumers and pro­mote poli­cies to grow our respec­tive olive oil pro­duc­tion sec­tors inter­na­tion­ally,” she said. This is the spirit with which we want to pro­mote Argen­tine and the rest our continent’s olive oil pro­duc­tion.”


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