Rival California Olive Packer Steps in to Pick Up Canceled Contracts

Musco Family Olive Company's CEO has said the company will do what it can to offer contracts to table olive growers affected by the Bell-Carter contract cancellations. They will give preference to machine-harvested olives.

Mar. 27, 2019
By Daniel Dawson

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Just weeks after Bell-Carter ter­mi­nated many of its con­tracts with California olive grow­ers, com­peti­tor and occa­sional col­lab­o­ra­tor, Musco Family Olive Company announced that it would pick up some of these con­tracts.

We want every farmer impacted by this deci­sion to know that Musco Family Olive Company is com­mit­ted to the California ripe olive indus­try,” Felix Musco, the company’s CEO, said. Our gates are open to pur­chase this year’s crop to meet our increased sup­ply needs from any grower who com­mits to our mod­ern grow­ing and har­vest­ing goals.”

I have spo­ken to Musco, and I’m on a list, which I’m grate­ful for, but there’s noth­ing guar­an­teed… So, I have to wait and see.- Ud Shanker, California olive grower

Musco did not spec­ify exactly how many con­tracts would be awarded, but said the com­pany would do its best to take on as many addi­tional ones as pos­si­ble. The com­pany also did not respond to a request for com­ment on this story.

While pref­er­ence will be given to those grow­ers who com­mit to plant­ing mechan­i­cally har­vestable acreage, we will also offer a one-year con­tract to as many acres as we can to pro­vide every­one with more time to con­sider this oppor­tu­nity,” he said.

See Also: Table Olive News

Even with new con­tracts being awarded, grow­ers esti­mate at least 31,000 tons of olives will go unhar­vested alone in Tulare County, which is home to many of the affected grow­ers. Industry lead­ers esti­mate this will cost the county $40 mil­lion in lost rev­enue.

Tricia Stever Blattler, the Tulare County Farm Bureau exec­u­tive direc­tor, told Visalia Times Delta that many farm­ers would be finan­cially hurt­ing this year and may have to let their orchards lie fal­low in the com­ing har­vest sea­son.

The impacts to our local econ­omy will be felt by many, includ­ing the olive grow­ers who have lost their pro­cess­ing con­tracts, and the 1,500 esti­mated farm work­ers who could find their annual income severely impacted by the loss of the har­vest work that is tra­di­tion­ally done in September and October when olive pick­ing occurs,” she said.

Musco Family Olive Company, along with Bell-Carter, filed an anti-dump­ing com­plaint against Spanish table olive pro­duc­ers with the United States International Trade Commission in the sum­mer of 2017. This, com­bined with a sep­a­rate anti-sub­sidy charge from the U.S. Department of Commerce led to the impo­si­tion of tar­iffs on imported Spanish table olives of 37.4 per­cent.

DCoop, along with its Moroccan part­ner Devica, which com­bined are two of the largest table olive exporters to the U.S. responded to the tar­iffs by pur­chas­ing a 20 per­cent stake in Bell-Carter.

This move allowed the com­pany to ship table olives to the U.S. before allow­ing them to oxi­dize. With this step of the process tak­ing place in the U.S., DCoop is able sell its olives in the coun­try tar­iff-free, accord­ing to the cooperative’s pres­i­dent, Antonio Luque. Bell-Carter has denied that this is the case.

As part of the agree­ment, Dcoop and Devica have also now become the near-exclu­sive sup­pli­ers of Bell-Carter’s table olives. However, Tim T. Carter, the CEO of Bell-Carter, said that in spite of this the com­pany would con­tinue to source some olives from California grow­ers.

However, it remains unlikely that many of the olive grow­ers impacted by Bell-Carter’s abrupt con­tract can­cel­la­tions will be able to sell their olives on to Musco.

I have spo­ken to Musco, and I’m on a list, which I’m grate­ful for, but there’s noth­ing guar­an­teed,” Ud Shanker, a California olive grower who had his con­tract with Bell-Carter ter­mi­nated ear­lier this month, told Olive Oil Times.

They pre­fer those who har­vest using machines and I’m not one of them,” he added. So, I have to wait and see.”

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