Spanish Black Olive Exports to U.S. Halved Since Tariffs Imposed

Since tariffs were imposed in August 2018, Spanish olive producers and exporters have lost more than $50 million.

By Daniel Dawson
Sep. 18, 2019 12:34 UTC

Olive grow­ers and pack­ers in Spain have lost €45.5 mil­lion ($50.1 mil­lion) since the impo­si­tion of tar­iffs on black olive exports by the United States last year, accord­ing to the Spanish Association of Exporters and Industrialists of Table Olives (Asemesa).

Spain’s lead­ing table olive pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tion said expected income from black olive exports to the U.S. fell by €17 mil­lion ($18.7 mil­lion) between January and July 2019. This came as pro­duc­ers shipped 8,325 tons of black olives to the U.S. in the first half of the year, a decrease of 50 per­cent com­pared with the same period in 2017.

There are com­pa­nies that have lost almost 30 per­cent of their turnover.- Antonio de Mora, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Asemesa

Additionally, an esti­mated €28.5 mil­lion ($31.4 mil­lion) loss was incurred between August 2018, when the tar­iffs were imposed, to the end of the year.

This lost busi­ness is hit­ting all types of olive pro­duc­ers, from small fam­ily-owned farms to large indus­trial pack­ers. Antonio de Mora, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Asemesa, told Olive Oil Times that lost rev­enue is expected to con­tinue accru­ing as long as tar­iffs remain in place.

See Also:Tariffs News

Given the lower demand for black olives in the past cam­paign, the prices of the vari­eties used to pro­duce black olives dropped more than 20 per­cent in the field and this year the same or more will hap­pen,” he said. There are com­pa­nies that have lost almost 30 per­cent of their turnover.”

Away from the tar­iffs, Asemesa has already spent €5 mil­lion ($5.48 mil­lion) on legal fees and is expected to spend another €2.5 mil­lion ($2.74 mil­lion) before the process is over.

The European Union has also filed a com­plaint on behalf of olive pro­duc­ers with the World Trade Organization and a panel has been formed to review whether there is a legit­i­mate basis for the tar­iffs.

De Mora believes that the WTO will ulti­mately rule in favor of the E.U. and Spanish olive pro­duc­ers, though these processes gen­er­ally take a long time to play out.

We are con­fi­dent that this will be the case even though it is a long and com­pli­cated process,” he said.

The process has been made even more com­pli­cated by the U.S., which has blocked the appoint­ment of new judges to the supra­na­tional body, delay­ing the pro­ce­dure of hear­ing and adju­di­cat­ing new com­plaints indef­i­nitely.

Prior to the impo­si­tion of the 27 per­cent tar­iff, Spain sup­plied the U.S. with more than three-quar­ters of American black olive imports.

This fig­ure has since fallen to just 36 per­cent and cre­ated a vac­uum into which some of Spain’s table olive export­ing com­peti­tors have stepped.

While Spanish exports were halved, rival exporters have seen their com­bined exports to the U.S. increased by 260 per­cent. Egypt, Morocco and Portugal have all expe­ri­enced mas­sive bumps since tar­iffs were imposed.

Morocco has been the biggest win­ner so far, with exports grow­ing by 460 per­cent. Meanwhile, Portugal and Egypt have also expe­ri­enced increases of 189 per­cent and 149 per­cent, respec­tively, over the same time period.

De Mora thinks that if the tar­iffs are reversed quickly then Spain will be able to reclaim its lost ground. However, if the tar­iffs drag on, he fears the U.S. mar­ket could be lost to the afore­men­tioned com­peti­tors.

If we get [a favor­able rul­ing] soon, surely yes [Spain can reclaim its pre­vi­ous mar­ket share], but if the tar­iffs are main­tained it will be impos­si­ble to recover the posi­tion in the mar­ket,” he said.


However, European offi­cials already believe that these tar­iffs will be dif­fi­cult to reverse. Earlier in the week, Cecilia Malmström, the out­go­ing European Trade Commissioner, sounded pes­simistic about the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting the U.S. to retract the tar­iffs.

We are dis­cussing a way to end these tar­iffs with the United States, so far with­out suc­cess,” she said at the New Economy Forum in Madrid.

In the mean­time, de Mora and oth­ers in the olive sec­tor are call­ing on more sup­port from the E.U. and Spanish gov­ern­ment. Many pro­duc­ers are already look­ing for new mar­kets for their black olives, which is also a slow process.

In the short and medium term it is impos­si­ble [for pro­duc­ers to find new mar­kets for their olives] although com­pa­nies are doing every­thing pos­si­ble to increase their sales with­out falling into a price war in other mar­kets,” de Mora said.

He added that the Spanish gov­ern­ment and E.U. should set up a fund to aid and com­pen­sate the losses that have already been incurred by pro­duc­ers, which has not yet hap­pened.

We do not under­stand why nei­ther the E.U. nor Spain is help­ing us in this,” de Mora said.


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