` Argentina President Promises Aid for Troubled Olive Oil Industry - Olive Oil Times

Argentina President Promises Aid for Troubled Olive Oil Industry

Feb 14, 2011 9:26 PM EST
Sarah Schwager

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Argentina’s pres­i­dent Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has pledged fed­eral gov­ern­ment help to the country’s bat­tered olive oil indus­try fol­low­ing 200 lay­offs in the Catamarca region amid ris­ing costs, low crop yields, the low inter­na­tional price of oil and dif­fi­cul­ties acquir­ing labor.



Catamarca Federal MP Dalmacio Mera announced that the aid will come in the form of both short-term help, so as to ensure the upcom­ing har­vest takes place, and medium- and long-term help in order to sus­tain pro­duc­tion in the province.

The announce­ment came after Mera met with the President to raise the con­cerns of the indus­try, a major source of income for the largely arid province, which in terms of agri­cul­ture relies on olives, wine, tobacco, nuts and corn. Catamarca is the largest pro­ducer of olives and olive oil in the coun­try.

Mr. Mera said the pres­i­dent promised imme­di­ate solu­tions to reverse the sce­nario and avoid fur­ther lay­offs” and tech­ni­cians have already begun to arrive in the province this week to inte­grate the government’s responses. He says the most press­ing need will be some sort of sub­sidy that reduces the costs involved in the next olive sea­son.

In order to alle­vi­ate olive work­ers’ fears of los­ing their social ben­e­fits while they per­form sea­sonal work, they may also be included in a pres­i­den­tial decree that allows them to con­tinue receiv­ing the Universal Allowance per Child (AUH) while work­ing on the har­vest.

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As for the medium to long term, the gov­ern­ment has promised to cover vari­etal con­ver­sion of the olive species to those that give higher yield in order to help com­pa­nies tighten the gap between prof­its and losses.

For these rea­sons, Catamarca’s provin­cial leg­is­la­tor Egle Altamirano hopes that the province will declare a state of emer­gency within the olive sec­tor as soon as pos­si­ble in order to acti­vate the mech­a­nisms that are being designed within the gov­ern­ment and speed up help to the region. The issue is not going to be solved until the decree comes out in the Province in rela­tion to the dec­la­ra­tion of emer­gency,” she told Catamarca’s Noa Press. It is a first step that must be taken, and I think there is will­ing­ness in this regard.”

Early this year a state of emer­gency was declared in the nation’s olive oil sec­tor in Pomán, a depart­ment within the Catamarca province, with com­pa­nies involved in olive pro­duc­tion being freed of pay­ing munic­i­pal taxes and fees for six months. The move came after falling returns and redun­dan­cies across the sec­tor largely due to the world­wide drop in olive oil prices and the require­ment for vari­etal con­ver­sion to other species with higher yields, lead­ing to fifty lay­offs in two weeks.

At the time, Pomán’s Mayor Francisco Gordillo crit­i­cized the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments for their lack of a pol­icy to address the sit­u­a­tion, thereby wors­en­ing Argentina’s pri­vate employ­ment sit­u­a­tion. He said a sup­port mech­a­nism for olive oil pro­duc­tion must be pro­vided to avoid employ­ers sack­ing their work­ers in order to try to meet costs.

Mr. Mera says the actions by the gov­ern­ment will help the indus­try to con­tinue to cre­ate jobs and devel­op­ment while also encour­ag­ing long-term invest­ment in the indus­try and in the province and main­tain Catamarca’s olive pro­duc­tion pro­file.

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