COAG Andalucia secretary general Juan Luis Avila (center) and olive sector head Gregorio Lopez (right) at a COAG press conference earlier this year (Photo: COAG Andalucia)

Since 2012, an agricultural trade agreement with Morocco has permitted duty-free imports of dozens of Moroccan products into the EU. This has included agricultural and fishery products, and olive oil of every category.

Last week, an EU court annulled the agreement, prompting Spain’s COAG Andalucia, the region’s union of farmers and ranchers, to request a stop to Moroccan imports of olive oil into Spain (Morocco’s largest olive oil importer, accounting for more than 60 percent of imports).

A large part of the concern, said COAG Andalucia, is that “this liberalization (of imports), along with the lack of origin control when it comes to labeling, not only allows for the import of oil from Morocco, but from any other producing country in the region.”

Compounding the problem, COAG said, is that these countries don’t comply with the EU’s same strict regulations at all levels, whether those have to do with labor, environment or otherwise. This puts the EU and its producers at a disadvantage, as not everyone is playing by the same rules.

Beyond this, COAG Andalucia believes that such an agreement isn’t actually benefiting Morocco’s local producers and economies, but only the olive oil lobby. This concern has also been raised with regard to Tunisia, which is the subject of a proposed quota increase on duty-free olive oil imports to the EU.

Though the EU court has ordered the annulment of the original 2012 agreement, commerce shouldn’t be impacted at this point given that the EU still has over two months to appeal it. But it seems Spain might be using this opening to stop the duty-free trade of olive oil from the North African country without delay.

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