By Daniel Williams
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Barcelona
Lleida (Spain) Olive Oil Cooperative Opens Eco-Friendly Olive Oil Mill Despite National Agrarian Crisis and Industry Troubles
The agricultural adviser to Cataluña’s Regional Government, Joaquim Llena, recently inaugurated a new, highly-efficient olive oil mill for the Lleida cooperative built from a joint investment of 2 million Euros. The new mill will occupy a surface area of some 4,500 square meters and will serve more than a thousand olive growers in Spain’s northern regions.
The new highly-advanced mega-mill can function without interruption and has the capacity to process around 350,000 kilos of olives each day. At the end of a year’s worth of work, the Lleida cooperative predicts that the new mill will have processed around 9 million kilos of olives, resulting in close to 2 million kilos of extra virgin olive oil.
Mr. Llena explained that almost 30% of the 2 million Euro investment, a total of 700,000 Euros, was contributed by Cataluña’s Department of Agriculture as part of a regional effort to modernize outdated and inefficient cooperatives in the midst of the worldwide olive oil pricing crisis.
According to a yearly review by the Foundation of Rural Studies, 24% of Spanish farmers growing olives for oil production have seen their incomes fall during 2009. In total, Spain’s agrarian income has fallen 5.5% and in response to falling prices, the number of people working in the olive oil sector has also dropped 4% to 786,050 employees. Llena showed his appreciation for the olive oil sector’s “exemplary” form in responding to the agrarian pricing crisis which is being met with aggressive investment and further innovations.
The new mill facilities are the product of a collaborative effort and business agreement between the Foment Maialenc cooperative, Agricola Almatret, and the Granyena and Cogul camps. Joan Segura, the president of the Foment Maialenc cooperative, the largest producer of the lot, has stated that the construction of the new mill is a sound investment in the midst of the current agrarian crisis. Segura claims the mill will eventually become a money-saver over time and estimates that
the new project will save some 15,000 Euros in gasoline annually
due to the mill’s eco-friendly boiler which runs on olive pits and water.