Olive growers warn that Spain is losing leadership


Madrid

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The olive oil It is the ‘liquid gold’ of the Spanish agri-food sector, with a 44% market share worldwide and a contribution to the Spanish economy of 4,000 million euros. For example, only the production activity directly employs 400,000 olive growers in 15 of the 17 autonomous communities. A privileged position that may now be in jeopardy: “We are losing the leadership of the oil category”, the president and CEO of the multinational Deoleo, Ignacio Silva, warned yesterday during a meeting with journalists together with the head of the Grupo Dcoop cooperative, Antonio Luque.

Both agreed in requesting the involvement of the distribution to “enhance Spanish olive oil”, and criticized that it has been used as a claim product to attract new customers. “We must find mechanisms so that everyone has their benefit”said Luque, who regretted that it is assumed that -at certain times of the year- the olive sector loses money. For Silva, «oil is a commoditized product, which has been used as a hook or claim just like milk. A situation that he does not hesitate to call “unsustainable” and urges that the entire value chain work together to “enhance” olive oil.

In any case, both positively valued initiatives such as the olive oil quality standard and olive pomace approved by the Government -via royal decree- on August 31. In his view, it is a step in the right direction, but “it falls a bit short.” In this regard, the president of Deoleo pointed out three areas in which this new regulation can improve: traceability, “In which it is not sufficiently ambitious” since it does not agree with the period of four or five years to apply this new regulation; as well as the tastings or organoleptic analyzes of which he criticized that “they suppose legal insecurity” and that he considered a pending subject for decades. In addition to everything that surrounds the control standards, since it leaves its application in the hands of the administrations.

At this point, he expressed his desire that the appropriate filters be arbitrated from the State. For his part, Luque was in favor of subjecting olive oil “to more demanding physicochemical parameters” and opted for “refocusing the tasting panel.” For the president of the Dcoop cooperative, a voluntary ‘certification’ has to be launched (at least initially) “to guarantee that Spanish oil is the best in the world” and is committed to companies undergoing a more exhaustive control. In Spain alone, with the largest olive grove area in the world, there are 1,500 bottling plants, 22 refineries and 1,755 oil mills registered.

In his opinion, this certification would grant a “Greater legal certainty”, while advancing scientifically to ensure a more objective assessment system. For example, Luque is committed to combining tastings with physicochemical analysis. For the president of Deoleo “it is worthwhile” to take steps in this direction, in order to achieve “the recognition and appreciation of the oil worldwide.”

Reforms

The last few months have come with news for the olive industry. The olive oil quality standard replaces a 1983 regulation and provides new features such as the prohibition of mixing olive oil with other oils and practices such as olive oil. ‘refreshed’, by which virgin olive oils from different campaigns are combined to improve its organoleptic characteristics (fruity, spicy …). In addition to forcing oil movements to be accompanied by specific documentation.

Months before, in February, the Government approved another royal decree that opens the door for the Ministry of Agriculture to temporarily withdraw product in crisis situations.

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