`Olive Council Holds Meeting on Geographic Indications - Olive Oil Times

Olive Council Holds Meeting on Geographic Indications

Nov. 10, 2010
Lucy Vivante

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The International Olive Council held a meet­ing in Reggio Calabria on 21 October 2010 to dis­cuss Geographic Indications (GIs) for olive oil and table olives. Documents and pre­sen­ta­tions from the meet­ing were pub­lished on 4 November. Mohammed Ouhmad Sbitri, Executive Director of the IOC, in intro­duc­tory remarks said, These two prod­ucts of the olive tree are key ele­ments of the Mediterranean diet and are traded exten­sively on the inter­na­tional mar­ket­place. This makes it essen­tial to pro­tect and show­case their attrib­utes, and geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions are pre­cisely the tools that are being used increas­ingly to do so.” Bestowing Geographic Indications is, how­ever, not easy. Problems lie in what the cri­te­ria
should be; who con­fers the spe­cial des­ig­na­tion; and once an olive oil or table olive has the des­ig­na­tion, who pro­tects and polices it.

To receive spe­cial des­ig­na­tion, grow­ers have to out­line how their prod­uct is dif­fer­ent and supe­rior. Distinct taste is fore­most. The con­cept of ter­roir is an impor­tant aspect. Regions with long his­to­ries of olive grow­ing can point to his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments refer­ring to their tra­di­tional olive prod­ucts. They can assert that their olives are unique to their area, and maybe even autochthones. They can out­line tra­di­tional meth­ods of how their oils are made. Readers are famil­iar with the des­ig­na­tions AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). France is the world leader in AOC des­ig­nated food and drinks, with 508 prod­ucts. For extra vir­gin olive oils, Italy leads with 40 GI regions. The entire EU has some 101 olive oil GIs.

Growers with less devel­oped mar­kets, and newer olive grow­ers may feel dis­ad­van­taged in com­par­i­son to more estab­lished pro­duc­ers. Part of the meet­ing’s pur­pose was to pro­pose areas that have the poten­tial for becom­ing pro­tected, and most of those come from out­side of the European Community. The IOC, with the help of Insight Consulting, put together a list of over 100 regions that could pos­si­bly be GI areas for both oil and table olives. Among IOC coun­tries, Tunisia led the list with 21 oil can­di­dates, Morocco fol­lowed with 11, Spain had 9, and Croatia had 8. In non-IOC coun­tries, Palestine had 6/7; while Peru, Chile, and the US had 4 can­di­dates each.

Those attend­ing the con­fer­ence heard from experts from the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. International bod­ies have grap­pled with fraud­u­lent mis­la­bel­ing since the 19th cen­tury. The Paris Convention of 1883 sought to address the false indi­ca­tion of the source of goods.” The Lisbon Agreement of 1958 enabled regions to receive Appellations of Origin sta­tus and cre­ated a reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem. There are lay­ers of leg­is­la­tion and treaties. The US has mostly been against Geographic Indication, and given that the US is such a big con­sumer of imported goods, this cre­ates ten­sions. The inclu­sion of 4 poten­tial US areas looks like an attempt to encour­age the US to get with the pro­gram. Still, the mem­ber orga­ni­za­tion in the U.S., the North American Olive Oil Association, is com­prised of bulk importers serv­ing the mass mar­ket, with pre­sum­ably lit­tle inter­est in fancy ori­gins.

Maria Testu, a speaker from France, cited inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion about the appeal of origin/provenance to con­sumers. The infor­ma­tion had been gleaned from a 2005 mar­ket research study by GfK, one of the largest mar­ket research com­pa­nies. In it, con­sumers said taste was the most impor­tant fac­tor in their selec­tion of oil, with origin/ prove­nance falling in the cen­ter. The nine fac­tors pre­sented to con­sumers, and their rel­e­vance in per­cent­ages, fol­low: Taste (85%), Extra Virgin (70%), Cold Extraction (60%), Price (52%), Origin/Provenance (48%), Clear Bottle to Better See Oil Color (45%), Yellow/Green Color (43%), Known Brand (30%), Visually Pleasing Bottle (15%).

Geographic Indications have def­i­nite mar­ket­ing value, but maybe not as great as one would think. Gabriela Catalani from Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture, raised ques­tion about the high costs for pro­duc­ers and gov­ern­ments, and that It raises false hopes in small pro­duc­ers.” For grow­ers in excep­tion­ally well-known regions, such as Tuscany, GI pro­vides a sure advan­tage. According to Pavlos Dimitriou from the European Commission, who cited fig­ures from a Tuscan firm, a GI bot­tle car­ries a 30% pre­mium over the same fir­m’s con­ven­tional extra vir­gin olive oil. Convincing super­mar­ket chains to stock GI oils, with their pre­mium prices, is another hur­dle.

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