After receiving PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status at a national level in 2015, extra virgin olive oil from the peninsular region of Istria in Croatia is now awaiting the same recognition in the EU.
The application for PDO status for Istrian extra virgin olive oil was submitted to the European Commission on July 30, 2015. In accordance with official procedures, the application was examined for “receivability” and then published in the Official Journal on March 23, 2016.
Ivan Jakovčić, a Croatian Member of European Parliament and former political head of the Istrian Region for more than a decade, played an important role in the development of Istria as an olive-growing region, and has more recently been advocating for measures supporting and promoting the European olive sector. He has also played an active role in the preparation for this application for PDO status. “As a president of the Region of Istria, and, since 2014, MEP and member of the Committee on Agriculture, I’ve been in close contact with a team managing this project and helping them to a successful end,” he told Olive Oil Times.
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“Acting for more than a decade as a president of the Region of Istria, I have been strongly supporting the development of olive growing in Istria, taking advantage of its soil and climate characteristics recognized as far back as Ancient Roman times. Istrian extra virgin olive oil is prized for and distinguished by its high quality, physico-chemical and organoleptic characteristics. Thanks to support and investments by our regional government, production has increased significantly and olive oil from Istria is gaining increasing international recognition. After gaining national PDO status in 2015, the next step was the application for the PDO status at the European level.”
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Under the EU’s product certification system there are three different existing designations for agricultural products and foodstuffs:
- PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) designates a product or foodstuff which is produced, processed and prepared in a certain geographical area using recognized know-how.
- PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) refers to a product or foodstuff that is closely linked to a certain geographical area, with at least one stage of production, processing or preparation taking place in this area.
- TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) vouches for the traditional character of a product, referring to either its composition or means of production.
Extra virgin olive oil produced in Istria qualifies for the highest designation because all stages of its production take place in the region, from the growing of olive trees to the pressing and processing of the olives for oil, and its bottling and packaging. Once PDO status is granted, bottles of Istrian extra virgin olive oil will be labelled with the designation “Istarsko extra djevičansko maslinovo ulje” (Istrian extra virgin olive oil) and bear a specially designed logo.
Not only does a product certification designation like PDO reinforce trust among consumers that they are buying an authentic, quality product originating in a specific geographical region, it also gives local producers a competitive advantage. “By labeling their products with the symbol and stamp, local producers will gain a better position in European and global markets,” confirmed Jakovčić. “PDO status will boost the development of olive growing in Istria. Furthermore, the Istrian EVOO label will ensure a higher quality and a more competitive product, guaranteeing high quality and authenticity for consumers. At the same time, local producers in Istria will be better protected against olive oil fraud.”
While the process for PDO certification took five years at the national level, it is hoped that this will go faster for the EU designation. In accordance with European Commission procedures, a six-month objection period is observed following the publication of an application in the Official Journal, during which time any statements of objection can be received and examined. Jakovčić is confident that there will be no objections and that Istrian extra virgin olive oil will receive the official recognition it deserves quickly: “I do not expect any objections to be tabled within the six-month period after the publication. Consequently, I expect Istrian extra virgin olive oil will receive PDO status at the EU level in the second half of the year.”
Extra virgin olive oil from the Croatian island of Cres already enjoys PDO status at the EU level since 2015, while other applications are also pending for olive oils from the islands of Krk, Korčula and Šolta.