If there is a minister in the new Government with an intense public agenda, this is the head of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Flat. Under the “perfect storm” suffered by the Spanish countryside in the form of low origin prices, tariffs imposed by the United States or the unwanted consequences of the last rise of the Minimum Interprofessional Salary (SMI), Flat multiply your contacts with different sectors and actors, from producers to distribution.
On Wednesday, a round of contacts began with the representatives of the large distribution, which he asked to end the sale at a loss -promotion claims for certain products-, a practice that he considered “limited” but which implies «A loss of economic and reputation». Yesterday, the minister opted for “a rebalancing” between farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers. Specifically, farmers and ranchers were asked to concentrate on forming larger cooperatives and acting through interprofessional organizations to gain weight.
He also confirmed his intention to introduce reforms in the Law of the Food Chain and pointed to the possibility of granting “tax bonuses” to the affected sectors, as well as his “concern” about the probability of a Increase in tariffs on these products as of February 15 in the United States. Also, during the day yesterday, Planas maintained contacts with representatives of the olive and table olive sector, whom the minister failed to convince.
For Teresa Pérez Millán, manager of the Olive Oil Interprofessional, the possibility of an upward revision of the 25% tariffs from February 15 mentioned during the meeting in Agriculture it is not exactly reassuring. “The United States is the main market outside the European Union and they are taking us out of it: we are moving towards a new scenario for the creation of packaging machines, which will buy any oil regardless of its origin,” he warned.
The representatives of the table olive sector were not happy either. From the Spanish Association of Exporters and Industrialists of Table Olives (Asemesa), the deputy to the general secretary José Manuel Escrig described as “disappointing” Agriculture’s response to this crisis and was “very pessimistic” about the future of this activity, although he acknowledged the help of the department of Planas in the judicial process in the United States against tariffs on black olives.
In addition, he acknowledged that although most of the competencies reside in Brussels, “much more pressure must be exerted.” In a conversation with ABC he said that Green olive exports to the United States fell by 25% between November and December 2019 compared to the previous year. In 2017, Spain sold to the US market 75 million kilos of green and black olives (45 million green and 30 million black) valued at 180 million euros. In this regard, Escrig also regretted that Morocco or Portugal are multiplying their sales in the United States by three.
The meeting with Planas also had a chapter of unexpected announcements, such as the creation of a specific sector program within the CAP Strategic Plan that from the Olive Oil Interprofessional take for granted. Similarly, the future standard of quality and traceability of olive oil that would seek to “increase” added value and competitiveness was also discussed. What, from the exporters of table olives, announced that they would value internally.
The meeting also allowed analyzing the first consequences of the so-called private olive oil storage which, according to Agriculture, after three tenders carries 171,000 tons. According to Planas, this is already “beginning to be noticed” in the market. For Pérez Millán, of the Olive Oil Interporfesional, “market expectations would be 200,000 tons.” However, he believes that “it is still too early to make an assessment.”