Tens of Thousands Protest Olive Oil Prices in Madrid

Protestors called on the Spanish government and European Union to change how the industry is regulated, help producers cope with low prices and protect Spanish olive oil from U.S. tariffs.

Oct. 10, 2019
By Daniel Dawson

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PRECIOS JUSTOS PARA UN OLIVAR VIVO,” read one ban­ner, which stretched across the entirety of a wide Madrid boule­vard and took 16 men to carry.

Fair prices for a liv­ing olive grove.”

Tens of thou­sands of olive grow­ers and oil pro­duc­ers (esti­mates range from 15,000 to more than 30,000) marched in the streets of the Span­ish cap­i­tal on Thurs­day, demand­ing some­thing be done about the unsus­tain­ably low prices they have been receiv­ing for their olive oils since March.

What we hope is that, after the suc­cess of the demon­stra­tion, the tasks for which we have come will be achieved.- Luis Car­los Valero, the direc­tor of ASAJA Jaén

The pro­tes­tors demanded that both the Span­ish gov­ern­ment and the Euro­pean Union take con­crete actions to help improve their eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion. They also voiced their dis­plea­sure at being caught up in a sim­mer­ing trade dis­pute between the E.U. and the United States.

As of Octo­ber 18, some Span­ish olive oil exports to the U.S. will face a 25-per­cent tar­iff. Roughly 50,000 tons of olive oil exports are expected to be impacted.

See more: Spain Reacts to U.S. Tar­iffs on Olive Oil

Orga­niz­ers of the protest, which include the Asso­ci­a­tion of Young Farm­ers (ASAJA), the Coor­di­na­tor of Agri­cul­ture and Live­stock Orga­ni­za­tions (COAG) and the Union of Small Farm­ers (UPA), have demanded that the gov­ern­ment increase its invest­ments in tra­di­tional olive groves, change the rules regard­ing self-reg­u­la­tion within the frame­work of the future E.U. Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP) and nego­ti­ate with the U.S. to get olive oil off of its list of retal­ia­tory tar­iffs.

Luis Car­los Valero, the direc­tor of ASAJA Jaén, said that it was espe­cially impor­tant for pro­duc­ers to be able to pri­vately store oil from one year to the next with­out hav­ing to worry about being accused of spec­u­la­tion in the Euro­pean Court of Com­pe­ti­tion.

The first is that the exten­sion of the stan­dard is rec­og­nized through the Inter­pro­fes­sional of Olive Oil [an orga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents pro­duc­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and exporters] by the Euro­pean Union and we can save the oil from one year to the next with­out being taken to the Court of Com­pe­ti­tion under the assump­tion that we are spec­u­lat­ing,” he said.

This step, Valero argued, would help keep prices con­sis­tent from on-year to off-year and pro­vide pro­duc­ers with the finan­cial sta­bil­ity they need to main­tain their groves and pro­vide for their fam­i­lies.

In a series of state­ments on Twit­ter, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and Food (MAPA) said that it had heard the pro­test­ers’ demands and would con­tinue the work it was already doing to meet the ones it could.

“[Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture] Luis Planas con­veys to the olive oil sec­tor once again that he shares the con­cern about the anom­alous evo­lu­tion of prices in this cam­paign and empha­sizes that for this rea­son, he has been work­ing with the agri-food coop­er­a­tives of Spain,” MAPA said in response to the pro­test­ers.

Regard­ing the claims of the olive oil sec­tor, Luis Planas notes the work that has already been done together with the sec­tor in recent months with under­stand­ing, sol­i­dar­ity and sup­port,” the min­istry added.

At the end of it all, Valero said that he was happy with how the protests went. He believes the gov­ern­ment knows exactly what olive farm­ers and pro­duc­ers want from them.

The protest has been a great suc­cess for the large influx of farm­ers and olive grow­ers from all over Spain,” he said. What we hope is that, after the suc­cess of the demon­stra­tion, the tasks for which we have come will be achieved.”

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