Montoro, Andalusia, Spain

A half hour drive northeast of the Andalusian city of Córdoba will take you to the picturesque town of Montoro. The town is not only home to the Montoro-Adamuz PDO, with its 47,000 acres of olive groves and 8 mills, Montoro also hosts a popular bi-annual Olive Fair where, on May 11, the 18th edition of the event was held at the Olive Community Heritage Foundation’s Olive Oil Complex.

“The Montoro Olive Fair is getting better each year it is celebrated,” said Victor Pérez from Finca la Torre, the winner of four Gold Awards at this year’s New York International Olive Oil Competition. “Years ago the fair primarily presented farm and milling equipment and now I see evidence of a shift to the importance of high-quality olive oil,” he told Olive Oil Times

This year there were 120 stands on the fairgrounds, a conference hall with key speakers and a tasting room with at least 80 award-winning extra virgin olive oils. Although the majority of the olive oils were from Spain, there were some from Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Israel and Greece.

On Thursday, speakers focused on the importance of economics, quality, and the role of tourism. The mayor of Montoro and the president of AEMO (the Spanish Association of Olive Growing Municipalities), Ana María Romero spoke on the importance of oleo-tourism on the economy, the hard work that is needed to build a better future, and the innovations that could be seen at the fair.

Ammar Assabah, deputy director, and Maria Isabel Gomez, head of the statistics for the International Olive Council (IOC) also spoke.

Assabah briefed the audience on the objectives of the new International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives and went on to explain three main roles of the IOC: to bring IOC members closer together, expand activities to consumer countries, and to simplify procedures.

Gomez walked the participants through a series of slides that showed statistical data on imports, exports and consumption. Gomez pointed out that although there is an increase in global olive oil consumption, there has been a decrease in European consumption which she attributed to the economic crisis.

Juan Vilar (GEA Iberia) and José María Penco (AEMO) were next on the line-up, presenting the International Study on Olive Oil Production Costs. The study, carried out between their entities and the IOC, demonstrated across 14 countries the cost of producing one kg of virgin olive by using 7 different olive cultivation methods.

The results of the study show the most profitable cultivation systems as well as those countries with the lowest production costs. Their recommendations included: the conversion of traditional systems into more mechanized, intensive systems; greater cooperation between producers; taking advantage of by-products; and the importance of training and knowledge transfer.

Public figures, from regional and national bodies were also present. Carlos Sánchez Laín from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment explained that the sector must not forget all that it has achieved. During his presentation, Sánchez stressed the importance of product excellence, the hard work that the Inter-Professional Organization of Spanish Olive Oil is carrying out, and the need to create a market to promote Spanish olive oils.

Soledad Serrano from QvExtra explained the significance of not just creating a product of excellence but also one that provides health benefits and a unique gastronomic experience. She also stressed that 80 percent of consumers do not know what quality is and the use of a seal like QvExtra can help to identify outstanding EVOOs.

Finca la Torre’s Pérez walked the audience through his personal journey to achieving one of the best olive oils in the world. Víctor and his team began by changing the entire philosophy of production. He scrapped the old ways of farming, harvesting and milling in favor of modern and ecological practices. He also tossed the old image, designed a new bottle and upgraded the logo. Then he welcomed visitors to come see his operation, creating transparency in all that Finca la Torre does.

Oleo-tourism was discussed last by José Gálvez — whose Oro Bailen has won Gold at the NYIOOC in four consecutive years — and Yolanda Caballero (Jaén City Council). Gálvez agreed with Pérez that tourism is an important way to transmit transparency. His family at Oro Bailen has put together an audio-visual display for visitors that come on the off-season when olive oil is not being made. They also give tastings and have a beautiful store.

Caballero explained that oleo-tourism is a way to make “a second harvest” from olive oil production. She detailed all of the work Jaén has done in recent years to develop the Oleo Tour Jaén. They found they had all of the ingredients (mills, gastronomy, rural accommodations, town fairs, museums) to create a unique tourism experience. Since they have started, it has been nothing but a success, she said.

On Friday, the AEMO handed out prizes for the Diffusion of Olive Culture, Best Mill, Best Master Miller, and Best Monumental Olive.

The PDO of Priego de Córdoba was awarded the top prize for diffusion of olive culture for their project “Healthy Breakfasts.” The second prize in this category was given to Oro Bailen for their work in oleo-tourism. Third prize was presented to Felipe Augusto Agudo for his Website, “La Moltura, Community of the Oleo-Aficionados.” Carmen Sánchez was given special recognition for her work in Germany.

The Best Mill was given to Agrícola de Bailén-Virgen de Zocueca S.C.A., who produce the brand Picualia. Best Master Miller was awarded to Juan María Cano González from the Córdoba producer Oleum Hispania. Finally, Best Monumental Olive was presented to The Olive with Four Feet known in Spanish as ‘Olivo de las cuatro patas’ from the village of Canet Lo Roig in Castellón.

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