Would increased used of designation of origin labels make consumers more aware of quality and inclined to pay more for it? That’s one of the issues Andalusia’s olive oil sector is debating as it seeks ways out of a prolonged pricing crisis. The regional government says that differentiation, particularly via what are known in Spain as denominations of origin (D.O.s), would help consumers make informed choices in the supermarket.

Clara Aguilera, Andalusia’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, said this week that experience in the wine industry had shown that D.O.s did make a positive difference. She said that Andalusia “produces many excellent olive oils but they need to be differentiated and that difference is shown by the denominations of origin.” She was speaking at a meeting of the regulatory board of the Lucena D.O., which is about a fortnight away from releasing the first olive oil bottled under this D.O. label.

But among those who disagree are Hojiblanca director general Antonio Luque, who says the D.O. system has no impact on consumers. Instead, “it dilutes efforts to promote the region’s olive oil, which should have one overall image.”

Meanwhile, Aguilera spoke about her government’s pledge of short-term loans to help producers avoid selling at a loss. She promised more detail within weeks but did say the loans would have an average term of six months and enough funds would be made available to “help protect the price of 50,000 to 100,000 tons of Andalusian olive oil.”

Tomorrow (Friday), key stakeholders will gather in a meeting to consider other measures to give the industry a brighter future.

Eduardo Tamarit, secretary general of Spain’s Ministry of the Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM), said last month that the Ministry was working on various economic and structural measures which would be discussed at the May 20 meeting of industry and government representatives. Issues on the table included how to achieve greater concentration among producers, tighter control over sales contracts and measures to prevent olive oil being used as a loss leader.

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