Olive Farmers in Alentejo Seek Sustainable Certification Label

The new initiative is meant to promote sustainable farming and milling practices. Participating farmers hope the certification will add value.
Alentejo, Portugal
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 16, 2022 15:20 UTC

A group of approx­i­mately 20 olive oil pro­duc­ers from the south­ern Portuguese region of Alentejo is join­ing the new sus­tain­able olive farm­ing devel­op­ment project recently launched by Olivum, a pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, and the University of Èvora.

The Alentejo Olive Oil Sustainability Program (PSAA) extends to all areas of olive oil pro­duc­tion. It aims to shrink the industry’s envi­ron­men­tal foot­print in the country’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region while increas­ing its social and eco­nomic ones.

The main chal­lenge for the sec­tor is to win over more con­sumers and more mar­kets that value these prac­tices.- Pedro Lopes, board of direc­tors pres­i­dent, Olivum

A new man­age­ment tool will also be devel­oped to pro­mote and mon­i­tor the sus­tain­able per­for­mance of Alentejo olive oil to increase the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the local indus­try.

The project pro­mot­ers empha­sized how the final goal of PSAA is to pro­duce a rec­og­niz­able and author­i­ta­tive cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or qual­ity label that proves the sus­tain­able approach of the cer­ti­fied com­pa­nies and would be rec­og­nized both nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally.

See Also:Farmers Are Facing the Brunt of Portugal’s Worsening Drought

PSAA aims to cre­ate a sus­tain­abil­ity bench­mark, in its envi­ron­men­tal, social and eco­nomic dimen­sions, for the pro­duc­tion of Alentejo olive oil,” Pedro Lopes, pres­i­dent of the board of direc­tors of Olivum, told Olive Oil Times.

This bench­mark will help strengthen the sec­tor’s entre­pre­neur­ial capac­ity, improv­ing its per­for­mance and effi­ciency in the use of resources, its pro­duc­tiv­ity and value cre­ation,” he added.

The pro­jec­t’s sig­nif­i­cance is highly related to the region’s role in the last few years in Portugal’s olive oil sec­tor, with invest­ments in mod­ern grow­ing and milling tech­niques and infra­struc­ture that have con­tributed to the steady growth of the coun­try’s coun­try’s olive oil out­put.

Spanish firm Juan Vilar Strategic Consulting esti­mates that 50 per­cent of the Portuguese olive indus­try is located in the Alentejo region.

According to International Olive Council data, Portuguese olive oil pro­duc­tion has steadily grown over the past decade, ris­ing from 76,200 tons in the 2011/2012 sea­son to the 120,000 tons expected for the cur­rent sea­son.

However, Olivum offi­cials believe the cur­rent IOC esti­mate to be on the con­ser­v­a­tive side and expect pro­duc­tion to reach 180,000 tons in 2021/22.

According to Juan Vilar Strategic Consulting data, Portugal’s olive oil sec­tor gen­er­ates a turnover of about €470 mil­lion per year and pro­vides 6.6 mil­lion work­ing days.

Recent stud­ies show that cur­rent mar­ket demands are related to sus­tain­abil­ity, ori­gin and form of pro­duc­tion in envi­ron­men­tal and social aspects,” Lopes said. Therefore, the main chal­lenge for the sec­tor is to win over more con­sumers and more mar­kets that value these prac­tices. That’s why the cre­ation of the PSAA is so impor­tant.”

Another major chal­lenge is pro­mot­ing the image and value of sus­tain­able Alentejo olive oil, which will have to go through an intel­li­gent mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy,” he added.

For a com­pany to be rec­og­nized by the PSAA as sus­tain­able, it will have to com­ply with a range of require­ments in its oper­a­tions in the grove or mill.

Maria Raquel Lucas, the project’s coor­di­na­tor and a pro­fes­sor at the University of Èvora, told Olive Oil Times that each para­me­ter would be asso­ci­ated with a min­i­mum ref­er­ence level of sus­tain­abil­ity.

See Also:Spain and Portugal Request European Aid to Fight Ongoing Drought

According to Lucas, local pro­duc­ers should work together to achieve a more par­tic­i­pa­tive and inclu­sive approach to grasp the full spec­trum of the specifics of the indus­try and the oppor­tu­ni­ties deriv­ing from coop­er­a­tion.

Such an approach would fos­ter a favor­able envi­ron­ment for the com­pet­i­tive­ness and added value chain and for the wide and intel­li­gent com­mu­ni­ca­tion, dis­sem­i­na­tion and pro­mo­tion of the olive oil sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gram and its prin­ci­ples,” she said.


It is very impor­tant that Alentejo olive oil can com­mu­ni­cate more and bet­ter the good prac­tices that already exist on envi­ron­men­tal, social, and eco­nomic issues, which greatly impact the Alentejo region,” she added.

The sec­tor is strongly com­mit­ted to new tech­nolo­gies and renew­able ener­gies so that olive groves and mills are eco­nom­i­cally and envi­ron­men­tally more sus­tain­able, while at the same time encour­ag­ing employ­ment and the instal­la­tion of new com­pa­nies with knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy in the region,” Lucas con­tin­ued.

The first steps for PSAA will include the adop­tion of an olive oil pro­duc­tion sus­tain­abil­ity bench­mark and eval­u­at­ing the per­for­mance of the pilot group of pro­duc­ers. Best prac­tices from this first step will then be shared.

PSAA will also lay the foun­da­tion for devel­op­ing the Digital Sustainability Program.

All the infor­ma­tion and con­tri­bu­tions from the pilot group will be used to develop [the plat­form],” Lopes said.

This is a pro­ce­dure and a strat­egy based on actions requir­ing low invest­ment from the mem­bers, yield­ing fast return­ing ben­e­fits,” Lucas added. This is a method of con­tin­u­ous improve­ment which allows mem­bers to develop and imple­ment the pro­gram at their own speed.”

Lopes and Lucas empha­sized how the PSAA model can eas­ily be applied to other sec­tors and coun­tries.

PSAA is a tool for sus­tain­abil­ity, which is why it is designed, planned and struc­tured to be imple­mented in any sec­tor, region or coun­try, accord­ing to the con­text of each oper­a­tor,” Lopes said. We aim to make the PSAA and the sus­tain­abil­ity of Alentejo olive oil an inter­na­tional ref­er­ence in the field of sus­tain­abil­ity.”

The def­i­n­i­tion of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process accord­ing to which the recog­ni­tion of the Alentejo olive oil for their sus­tain­abil­ity per­for­mance will hap­pen, avoid­ing expo­sure to rep­u­ta­tion risks, will be another fol­low­ing project,” Lucas con­cluded.


Related Articles