Clovis, CA (Sept. 12, 2013) – The U.S. International Trade Commission’s (USITC) report on olive oil competitiveness documents the depth of challenges U.S. extra virgin olive oil producers face in the U.S. and foreign markets. The bottom line is clear: widespread olive oil fraud and mislabeling plus trade protections and enormous subsidies enjoyed by European producers add up to one giant hurdle for U.S. olive oil producers. The report, entitled Olive Oil: Conditions of Competition between U.S. and Major Foreign Supplier Industries, can be viewed at www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub4419.pdf.
“We applaud the USITC for producing this insightful work and commend Chairman Dave Camp for requesting it,” said Kimberly Houlding, Executive Director of the American Olive Oil Producers Association. “We believe consumers deserve to understand the quality of the oil they are buying and trust its authenticity and producers deserve fair access to consumers in markets both here and abroad.”
The USITC report raises troubling product integrity, evaluation and enforcement questions for olive oil consumers and documents unfair trade practices that help European oils – even though they are shipped 5,000 miles or more – dramatically undercut U.S. olive oil prices on U.S. store shelves. For example:
Multi–billion dollar annual government subsidies make up as much as half the annual income of some European producers.
 Spanish producers alone receive subsidies in excess of $1 billion per year.
U.S. import tariffs on European oil range from $34 to 50 per metric ton while European tariffs on U.S. oil are $1,650 to 1,800 per metric ton.
With largely unenforced export controls on olive oil leaving Europe for other countries, widespread adulteration, fraud and mislabeling pose significant questions about the integrity of the products on market shelves and used by U.S. consumers.
“Given the USITC documentation of the European subsidies, high tariffs and significant adulteration and mislabeling, we are anxious to work with U.S. officials to resolve these barriers that clearly impede growth of the U.S. olive oil industry,” said Houlding. “We hope European Community (EC) and U.S. government officials will consider remedies that allow fair and equal market access for all.”
AOOPA also supports the adoption of one clear set of evaluation, rating and labeling standards in the marketplace for all extra virgin olive oils so consumers can have a reliable way to compare products.
“All extra virgin olive oils – U.S. or imported – should be subject to the same testing standards at the point of final bottling,” said Kyle Sawatzky, President, Bari Olive Oil Company. “Given the revelations in the USITC report, it is clear consumers need a way to trust that the product they are providing their families is truly what is listed on that bottle’s or can’s label.”
AOOPA also believes all labels should include information about olive varietals and where they were grown, processing and packaging locations, harvest and milling dates to determine ‘freshness’, and a ‘best used by’ date.
“U.S. olive oil producers are growing, milling and bottling extra virgin olive oils that are among the best in the world in quality, taste and value,” said Jason Shaw, President, Georgia Olive Farms. “All we ask is that our oils be allowed to compete fairly on quality, taste and value on store shelves for consumers in both the U.S. and other countries.”