`Industry Group Pushes to Adopt Australian Olive Oil Standard in South Africa - Olive Oil Times

Industry Group Pushes to Adopt Australian Olive Oil Standard in South Africa

Nov. 15, 2011
Curtis Cord

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The indus­try asso­ci­a­tion of South African olive oil pro­duc­ers, has decided to sup­port the adop­tion of the same olive oil stan­dard recently put into place in Australia.

Andries Rabie, Chairman of the South African Olive Industry Association (SA Olive), said the gov­ern­ment in South Africa had estab­lished a com­mit­tee to con­sider the rec­om­men­da­tion.

The Australian Standard for Olive and Olive-Pomace Oils, which was approved in July by Standards Australia, estab­lished new vol­un­tary olive oil labelling and chem­istry guide­lines like no other mar­ket’s in the world. Misleading words like Light” and Pure” were dis­al­lowed and new test­ing meth­ods were sanc­tioned to deter­mine olive oil qual­ity and grade.

The International Olive Council, whose mem­ber coun­tries pro­duce over 95 per­cent of the world’s olive oil, crit­i­cized the Australian move, call­ing it a pos­si­ble trade bar­rier that would make adul­ter­ation eas­ier.

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But the new stan­dard has its sup­port­ers. Fellow up-and-com­ing pro­duc­ers in California, SA Olive, and even the rec­tor of the University of Jaén, Manuel Paras Rosa, have ral­lied around, accord­ing to Australian Olive Association President Paul Miller who plans on form­ing a new world alliance” based in part on the new stan­dard.

South Africa makes around 3 per­cent of the world’s wine, plac­ing it in the top ten pro­duc­ers, but its olive oil pro­duc­tion of 1,500 tons is barely on the radar. And with annual con­sump­tion esti­mated by Rabie at 7,000 tons, South Africans account for less than one-quar­ter of one per­cent of global olive oil con­sump­tion.

Rabie points out, how­ever, that olive oil con­sump­tion stood at just 1,800 tons 10 years ago, and the coun­try is con­sid­ered to be among the ris­ing New World pro­duc­ers that stand to chal­lenge the estab­lished ways of the olive oil indus­try and the long-held dom­i­nance of European pro­duc­ers.

For many years we have known that some EU brands were blend­ing refined oils into their extra vir­gin to get the price point down,” Rabie told Olive Oil Times, ” but we could never prove this.”

So, like their coun­ter­parts in the U.S. and Australia, SA Olive did some test­ing. We took 30 sam­ples ran­domly from retailer shelves. We found shock­ing results. Only 24 per­cent were found to be extra vir­gin accord­ing to IOC cri­te­ria,” Rabie said.

Rabie’s Willow Creek is the largest olive oil pro­ducer in South Africa, with about 280 hectares and 173,000 trees. The estate has been in his fam­ily since the late 18th cen­tury.

With world olive oil prices scrap­ing along his­tor­i­cal lows, count­less pro­duc­ers in every region are tee­ter­ing on the edge of via­bil­ity. The sit­u­a­tion in Australia is par­tic­u­larly dire, accord­ing to sources.

Unable to com­pete against sub­si­dized European pro­duc­ers export­ing low-qual­ity, often fraud­u­lent prod­ucts, New World pro­duc­ers have grown increas­ingly aggres­sive. Highly pub­li­cized qual­ity tests, stan­dards reform and groups like Miller’s alliance are seen as efforts to turn the tables and even the score.

If we could sort out the qual­ity, we could level the play­ing field in South Africa,” Rabie Said, We there­fore decided to sup­port the Australian stan­dard and adopt it here.”

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