Organizers say 10,000 people will gather in Cordoba Friday during a visit by European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş to call for the immediate provision of private storage aid for olive oil. The action would enable producers to receive payments for keeping olive oil in long-term storage containers, withholding it from the market until pricing conditions improve. Spanish growers are suffering from a prolonged pricing crisis during which it has been common practice to sell olive oil for less than production costs.

While many have blamed Spain’s powerful distributors — a handful of brokers that move the world’s largest olive oil supply — some have pointed to the very place of olive oil in the psyche of Spanish consumers who use olive oil prices as a bellwether, often deciding where to buy groceries based on where they can find the lowest priced olive oil. Retailers, for their part, use the staple as a loss leader.

On March 17th Cioloş said he would closely examine Spain’s case before an EC management council meeting on April 13th. He reiterated, however, that the situation did not appear to meet the conditions required for the bulk storage payments. Olive oil prices in Spain were higher than the trigger levels and there was no proof of serious market disturbance, he said. Those trigger levels were set in 1998 when production costs were far lower than present levels.

Cioloş rejected earlier calls for action in February saying that the country’s problem lay with an imbalance of power held by distributors and that the aid was designed to address cyclical, not structural, problems.

Organizing Fridays demonstration in Cordoba were the ASAJA agricultural organizations, COAG, UPA and the Andalusian Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Enterprises (FAECA).

Minister of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs Rosa Aguilar expressed the hopes of the farmers, saying she hoped Cioloş would “bring some good news.”

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