The Indian Olive Association (IOA) held its 5th Annual Session in New Delhi on November 1. VN Dalmia, president of IOA, said India’s olive oil imports had grown by nearly 40 percent from 5,000 tons in 2010-11 to 6,900 tons in 2011-12. Imports in the first quarter of the current financial year 2012-13 stood at 2,300 tons, leading to the Association’s expectations that total imports during 2012-13 would exceed 10,000 tons.

India’s celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who hosts the cooking show Khana Khazana, was the chief guest at the meeting. Addressing the session, Kapoor pledged his support to greater use of olive oil in India. He said that given the high incidence of lifestyle diseases in India, there is no alternative to olive oil if the situation is to be improved. Kapoor also pointed out that the food habits of Indians were changing and a greater adoption of olive oil in the was taking place due to its ease of use, making it well-suited for the Indian kitchen.

During the session, VN Dalmia recommended the substitution of unhealthy fried snacks with table olives. He said the consumption of healthy table olives was restricted in India due to high import duties. With an import duty rate ranging between 44 and 51 percent, it is among the highest in the world despite the fact that India does not have any domestic production of table olives to warrant protection from cheaper imports.

Dalmia pointed out that the encouraging growth of olive oil consumption in India is being driven by a growing consciousness towards healthier foods, and the unfortunate fact that India leads the world in cardiac problems. One in 10 people in India is estimated to be affected by cardiac problems. According to WHO, heart disease will be the single biggest killer in India by 2015.

Health properties of olive oil compared to other cooking oils can contribute significantly to improving the general heart health in India. However, the olive oil industry in the country faces a key challenge due to the outmoded trade standards used by FSSAI. The IOA has been trying to raise the issue with FSSAI, but the Indian standards are yet to be aligned with international standards such as CODEX or those of the EU or the International Olive Council.

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