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Umbria PDO Looks to Expo and Beyond

Jan. 29, 2015
Alfonso De Lucia

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Leonardo Laureti is the pres­i­dent of the Consortium of PDO Umbria extra vir­gin olive oils, which aims to sup­port the PDO, inform con­sumers and encour­age new ini­tia­tives to pro­mote Umbrian brands on the mar­ket.

We esti­mate that the 2014 pro­duc­tion is about 5 per­cent of 2013’s- Leonardo Laureti, Umbria PDO

Recently, Laureti made state­ments about the fail­ure of the Italian and Umbrian olive sec­tors to be bet­ter pre­pared for the chal­lenges — envi­ron­men­tal and oth­er­wise — that have resulted in one of the worst years in recent his­tory for Italian olive oil; so bad, in fact, that Tunisia has replaced Italy as the world’s sec­ond largest olive oil pro­ducer.

We checked in on Laureti this week to see how his grow­ers are doing after the annus hor­ri­bilis.”

Q: Mr. Laureti, in November you blamed the olive grow­ers in Umbria because, in your opin­ion, they had not been able to pre­vent the prob­lems of the dis­as­trous sea­son. What was the final bal­ance for PDO Umbrian oil?

That was not a rep­ri­mand, but an invi­ta­tion to a greater aware­ness that the olive grow­ing can’t be left to fate, and that, fac­ing a bad crop like in 2014 (the worst one in our long his­tory), the sim­ple com­plaints rep­re­sent the most use­less and wrong solu­tion that can be found.

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As I have already repeated last spring, because of the mois­ture that pre­vented the pol­li­na­tion of olives and, after an year with a great har­vest like 2013, a sea­son with a low pro­duc­tion of PDO Umbria oil was expected, so we started with low out­looks for 2014.
See Also: Complete Coverage of the 2014 Olive Harvest
At the moment, we esti­mate that the 2014 pro­duc­tion is about 5 per­cent of 2013’s. From an eco­nomic point of view this is a dra­matic sit­u­a­tion for the oil sec­tor, but on the other hand, we can state that the mon­i­tor­ing insti­tu­tions have worked well by con­trol­ling the sup­ply chain to safe­guard con­sumers and the pro­duc­ers them­selves from coun­ter­feit­ing.

Another inter­est­ing thing is the grow­ing aware­ness of all of us about the impor­tance of the oil we use in our cui­sine. Consumers are will­ing to pay a lit­tle more to buy the PDO Umbria oil and prob­a­bly its price will con­tinue to have this (high) level for a while.

You called for a wider vision and more pro­fes­sion­al­ism from olive grow­ers: what are the tools your asso­ci­a­tion imple­mented to improve the yield and pro­duc­tion for next sea­son?

For our Consortium it was nec­es­sary to give a strong mes­sage for a con­tin­u­ous improve­ment of the pro­duc­tion sys­tem. The so called olive fly” adver­sity has been known for a long time; weather in 2014, how­ever, made its con­trol very com­plex and dif­fi­cult, because the high tem­per­a­tures in win­ter and the lower ones in sum­mer, with the pres­ence of con­tin­u­ous rains, have favored the devel­op­ment of plant dis­eases.

For that rea­son, our Consortium pre­pared a guide for fight­ing the olive fly in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Plant Protection Service of the Umbria Region. The hand­book offers tips to pre­vent attacks of the fly, defines the tech­ni­cal mon­i­tor­ing of this insect and lists the fight­ing tech­niques in both organic and con­ven­tional farm­ing, in accor­dance with the best agri­cul­tural prac­tices. Finally, I rec­om­mend to turn to a pro­fes­sional agron­o­mist.

This year, the demand for PDO oil exceeded sup­ply: this is def­i­nitely a good sign for the many small pro­duc­ers who are crushed by the inter­na­tional play­ers, but it is also a sig­nal show­ing us how our prod­uct is pop­u­lar in the world, con­sid­ered almost essen­tial, and that makes us proud of the work we’ve done in recent years.

Is it pos­si­ble to make fore­casts for PDO Umbria oil pro­duc­tion in 2015?

According to the best sce­nario, we envis­age two years of inter­est­ing har­vests, since the world pro­vi­sions are run­ning out and then it will be nec­es­sary to start from scratch. 2014 was a year of dis­charge” which is typ­i­cal in the cycle of olive grow­ing. All har­vests in agri­cul­ture depend on nature, being con­tin­u­ously exposed to weather events and dis­eases.

Fortunately Umbria has a ter­ri­tory that gives us extra­or­di­nary prod­ucts, pri­mar­ily oil, char­ac­ter­ized by high organolep­tic and healthy con­tents; our pro­duc­ers have to live up to what our ter­ri­tory offers them, in order to sell the excel­lence to our con­sumers. We are small, but our oil rep­re­sents excel­lence on the global mar­ket.

2015 is the year of the Expo, focus­ing on Feeding the Planet.” Will the Consortium be present at the uni­ver­sal exhi­bi­tion?

Of course, we will be there, because it is a unique oppor­tu­nity, and because we have a moral oblig­a­tion in front of a claim that says Feeding the world, energy for life.” We do not hide our dis­ap­point­ment due to the lack of an oil pavil­ion,” as they have orga­nized for wine.

We will be able to tell about the won­der­ful Mediterranean cul­ture where the olive tree plays a sym­bolic role. We will bring with us our her­itage, pro­duc­ers, millers, olive-grow­ing land­scape; that is to say our iden­tity. We pre­pared two projects: one for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and one about the link between design and food. We like to think that beauty, good­ness and knowl­edge are a priv­i­lege we have to sup­port.

What are the objec­tives of your par­tic­i­pa­tion?

Promoting and spread­ing Umbrian cul­ture and learn­ing from our friends in the world, to exchange ideas and good agri­cul­tural prac­tices: why not? Actually, the Expo is also an oppor­tu­nity to com­pare our­selves, to be intrigued, to pro­pose devel­op­ment mod­els in har­mony with our land. We are dwarfs on the shoul­ders of a giant and we have the task of show­ing our beauty” as it was per­ceived by the ancient Greeks: har­mony between beauty and fair­ness.

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