Argentina has long been one of Latin America’s top olive oil producing countries, with over US$30 million in exports recorded during the first trimester of 2011 alone. But despite strong numbers abroad, domestic consumption remains paltry in comparison. The average Argentine consumes just 125 grams annually, according to El Sol.

Industry representatives in the northwest province of La Rioja are now trying to change this with an effort to put more bottles of olive oil on Argentine dinner tables across the socioeconomic spectrum.

A new bill presented by Kirchnerist deputy Javier Tineo aims to “enhance the dissemination” of olive oil and increase its consumption and production on the national level. The bill proposes that olive oil be labeled a “national food,” to join the ranks of beef, dulce de leche, empanadas and other foods found in virtually any Argentine household.

Javier Tineo

More than anything, the initiative would aim to change the perception of olive oil in a culture that generally views it as an elite product consumed only by the wealthy. Supporters of the bill say that an effective campaign would raise consumption and help stimulate regional economies.

The market has been facing pressure recently to boost internal sales due to increasing export restrictions, particularly to its main buyer Brazil. Falling international prices and rising production costs have only added to the woes.

“Due to successive crises, investment in the sector has slowed and many farms have stopped expanding for financial reasons, low competitiveness and low prices internationally, all of which have eroded the integral profitability of investment projects,” said Tineo.

The plan, Tineo added, “must be accompanied by public policies that encourage both primary production and industrialization of olives in their two main variants: table (or preserved olives) and olive oil.”

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