By Sarah Schwager
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Buenos Aires
Argentinean farmers, businessmen and olive agency representatives have come out in force against a draft bill that proposes to give control of the olive market to Argentina’s wine regulator.
Authored by Mendoza Representative Patricia Fadel, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner’s main representative in Parliament, the bill seeks to empower the National Institute of Vitiviniculture (INV) as the body that controls the activities of the sector and regulates the withholdings of bottled olive oil.
The proposal has triggered a huge response among the olive sector. For example, the olive industry business relationship organization PortalOlivicola.com has received responses from the Olive Federation of Argentina (FOA), the Agriculture Federation of Argentina (FAA), Chambers of Foreign Trade (CCE), and Mendoza’s Olive Chamber, among others.
While the vast majority of respondents disagree with the proposal, some feel that it could bring certain benefits such as the disappearance of adulterated olive oil from the market.
Mendoza Olive Chamber Representative Facundo Gomensoro told PortalOlivicola.com the initial idea was to create a National Olive Institute to manage the sector, taking on board the learning experiences of the INV, however several difficulties arose. “The INV has a history of reliability, covers virtually all
areas of olives, its laboratories can easily do all the analysis relating to olive oil,
and wine culture greatly resembles that of olive oil, among many other similarities,” he said.
President of the FOA, Luis Arata, however, says all that the project achieves is to find an alternative regulator without consulting the sector. He says the draft bill is “totally unfair” and the olive industry needs a body that knows the sector and that represents the voice of the majority of the sector.
“To put olive growing within an institution that exports more than $2 billion when the olive sector exports less than $120 million is to put the fate of the sector to people who are not interested in it and who are going to provide nothing more than expenditures,” Mr Arata said.
President of the FAA’s Olive Commission Fabián Núñez Acosta says there are already public and private institutions that have been working with the olive sector for more than 15 years. He says the sector needs the help of these very qualified people, along with the experiences of researchers from Argentina’s numerous universities, institutes and associations located in the country’s olive-growing regions that have worked for years to help develop the olive industry.
Meanwhile, olive-growing region Cuyo’s Chamber of Representatives unanimously rejected the proposal. Deputy leader of the Peronist Movement Juan Cruz Miranda described the initiative as an offense against Catamarca and La Rioja, the main producers of olive oil in Argentina. The draft bill also proposes to maintain the withholding tax for the export of bottled olive oil at 5% for products manufactured in bulk, which is considered excessive by the industry.
Olive industry representatives have agreed to review the project and suggest any contributions they believe will enhance the proposal by the end of this month.