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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