Friday, June 8, 2012

Quality Standards and Labelling are Separate Issues

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has demurred from using the ‘Australian Standard’ for olive oil in pursuing prosecutions for alleged non-compliance. Perhaps it is time for the proponents of the standards to separate the multiple aims and deal with them sequentially.

The sections of the standards dealing with labelling can be dealt with first, while those that deal with quality can be pursued separately.

Olive Oil Consumption Drop in Greece and Italy

Olive oil is losing ground to cheaper vegetable oils in its heartland, the major producing countries Greece and Italy. Reported by the British Independent newspaper, The International Olive Council reports that olive oil consumption in these two countries is down to 1995 levels while Spain is holding steady. The consumption drop is attributed to consumers switching to cheaper vegetable oils.

Wholesale Olive Oil Prices Lowest in Years

According to the International Monetary Fund, wholesale extra virgin olive oil prices in Europe have halved since 2005 and are back to 2002 levels. The price drop is caused by bumper harvests in Spain and reduced consumption in Europe. In an attempt to stop the price slide EU producers have been assisted in storing the surplus olive oil.

Time to Test Olive Oils against Other Vegetable Oils

One must question the logic of the continuous assault on imported olive oils that is taking place in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. While the main reason promulgated for this New World campaign is to increase the quality of olive oil supplied to consumers, many see it as a thinly disguised attempt to increase the sales of locally produced extra virgin olive oils. 

With the global access to local news and commentary, the danger of this approach is that the global brand of olive oil is permanently damaged and it will take more than a few new producing countries to repair the damage. The sales of olive oil are very price sensitive as we are seeing in Greece and Italy.

It is time we as an industry encouraged the comparison of the positive attributes olive oil – refined and extra virgin – with other vegetable oils, and in doing so, boost the global olive oil brand rather than tainting it.