Thursday, June 21, 2007

More thoughts on fair-trade olive oil



It is the consumer's right to know how the product they are purchasing is produced; this goes for olive oil as well. When you buy a bottle of olive oil at the supermarket there is little indication on the bottle or the shelf of how the oil was produced or about who did all the work to turn olives into oil. Making olive oil is a year-long agricultural process that requires the attention of farmers, extra labour for harvesting and pruning as well as the people working in the mill.

Although there are few issues around fair trade in Italy it is something that needs to be considered nonetheless. Are farms getting their fair share of the profits? This is particularly important for small-scale farmers who have a hard time competing in the global market. When my mother and I started to import olive oil from Italy we wanted to make sure we were giving back to local communities and encouraging the continuation of agricultural practices and traditions.

Buying direct from the producer and selling direct to the client is one way in which we keep the cost of our oil reasonable. However, quality comes from careful labour, passion and expertise, which have their price. Generally these are not values espoused by industrial production.

As you may know, I am not a big fan of certifications and although Amelia Oil may not be certified fair trade, we are proud to be a part of sustainable, local agriculture in Italy.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Henry Mackay said...

Hello Rachel,

Pardon if I comment on the theme in general, but I just came across your blog...

The issue of correct labelling is, curiously, going to be resolved by pressure from within the country of the great, shameless offenders in this regard - the large Italian bottlers whose major business tool is utter opaqueness (not to use a stronger term). This change is already producing some odd behaviour in the olive oil market. This year, Italian buyers shopped heavily and early in the season in Greece, Turkey and Tunisia. Prices in the last were higher than in Spain for a while - a historic first. The obvious explanation would be that internal demand for oil from more similar tasting varietals was keeping them away from the Iberian market. The end result is that those countries have little carryover and, for the first time in an age, Greeks were buying Spanish oil this month. One is hard pressed to imagine it being labelled as such there, however.

The end result of this may be a period of confusion, given that Spain is the only large producer with a surplus to sell internationally and all consumers in non-producing countries think that olive oil is inherently Italian. I can only see this as benefiting specific source importers like yourself.

Regards,

HM (your countryman, BTW)

1:46 PM  
Blogger Olive Oil said...

Dear Henry,

Thank you for your insightful comment. I agree and I think consumers are going to start demanding more transparency. I just hope the farmers get their fair share and don't get saddled with pricey certifications, etc. However, I am doubtful the Italian government will be very useful or proactive.

Cheers,

Rachel

3:02 PM  
Blogger Henry Mackay said...

Spanish growers, like myself, are protected to a great extent from predatory pricing due to the dominance of the co-ops in the pressing business. Witness the price stalemate right now at the low end of the range as bottlers attempt to squeeze them, hoping they break before their own supplies run out.

How long the producers' strength lasts is in doubt, however, as food industry giants like SOS-Cuétara begin to plant their own intensive groves and try to enlist private growers to sign on to the company plan - à la McCain's in P.E.I I suspect.

Regards

12:02 PM  

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