Nine regional organizations representing producers, olive-pressing companies, refiners and bottlers, are joining forces in Sicily to support an application to the competent bodies in the European Union, in order to receive a PGI certification for Sicilian olive oil.
The partners endorsing the initiative are: the producers Cia, Coldiretti and Confagricoltura; the cooperatives Agci, Legacoop and Confooperative; the oil mills Aifo and Asfo; and the bottler Federolio.
Maurizio Lunetta, president of the cooperative Aipolivo, has been appointed unanimously as the president of the newly formed association aiming to protect Sicilian olive oil.
Along with Mr. Lunetta the board consists of, Francesca Barbato of Coldiretti, Giuseppe Oro of Confcooperative, Giuseppe Giordano of Confagricoltura, Angelo Sillitti of Agci, Calogero Girgenti of Legacoop, Piero Pipitone of Asfo, Mario Russo of Aifo, and Manfredi Barbera of Federolio.
A committee has been formed to work exclusively and prepare all required documents that will be used to support the island’s application for the PGI recognition.
Protected Geographical Region (PGI) and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certifications cover all food products. They are awarded to reflect on the labeled products the character of a specific local region or unique know-how.
“The idea of a PGI extra virgin oil from Sicily found immediately a great acceptance within the olive oil industry,” said Maurizio Lunetta. “The PGI certification is a tool that, if used effectively will increase the added value of Sicilian olive oil. It will help local industry to work in a sustainable profit when very often this is not the case,” he said.
The initiative is encouraged by the Regional Department of Agriculture.
Sicily is the third major producer of olive oil in Italy with a production of approximately 3 million tons of olive fruit and 50,000 tons of olive oil. This production translates to €220 million in revenues for the industry and €500 million for the related market. Sicily’s olive crop is essentially organic with some 16,000 hectares of olive trees cultivated according to traditional methods of production.
More than 40 olive oil products coming from Italy have been awarded either PDO or PGI certifications – from as early as 1996 when the first registrations were published. Italian producers were among the first to capitalize on such product differentiation and this is reflected in sales and market share worldwide.
The examination of an application takes a long time though. Two Italian applications from Terra d’ Otranto applied on March 1, 2011 and Umbria applied on October 17, 2011 are still in the processing phase.
The first Italian olive oils to receive PDO certification on July 2, 1996, were Canino, Sabina, Brisighella, and Aprutino Pescarese.