Conversations with presidents of oil cooperatives

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Conversations with presidents of olive oil cooperatives

At the end of this year’s winter, one of the harshest winters I can remember from this decade, I made another trip to the lands of Jaén. The purpose of the trip, apart from bringing the best extra virgin olive oils in the world to Madrid, was to take advantage of this trip to interview several presidents of the olive oil cooperatives in Jaén and ask them about issues of great interest to lovers of the countryside and this product.

The opinions of these presidents are of great interest, as they are people who are in continuous contact with farmers, the countryside, as well as national and international olive oil corridors.

I will not indicate the names of these cooperatives, as I do not think it is of great interest to the reader of this article.

I asked all the presidents the same two questions: the first, about the trend in olive oil prices in the coming months, and the second, about the bacterium that has done so much damage to Italy and has already reached the Balearic Islands, Xilella fastidiosa.

Before meeting the first president, I had the opportunity to visit his cooperative, which surprised me very pleasantly, it was immaculate, an excellent cleanliness. Another of the things that I liked the most was his position, in a prelegiado place with a few expectaculares views to the fields of olive trees of Jaén.

Trends in olive oil and Xilella fastidiosa

After meeting the president of the cooperative, I asked him the first question: about the trend in olive oil prices in the coming weeks and months.

His answer was quick and forceful. The trend in the price of olive oil is clearly upwards. Even, he dared to porner figures, the increase for the next weeks goes from 30 to 50 cents per liter.

After this question and without me telling him anything, he quickly turned the subject of conversation to the manipulation of extra virgin olive oil, assuring with great firmness and rotundity, about the great fraud that exists in this sector. Assuring me about the mixtures that are made today with different types of oils such as sunflower oil, peanut and others to obtain extra virgin olive oil that are sold in supermarkets.

I replied that I did believe in the existence of the manipulation of oils, but that most of them consisted of converting very low quality olive oils, lampante oils into extra virgin olive oil by means of the header. However, he answered me with enormous assertiveness, about a greater manipulation carried out by the big packagers.

After a great expansion on the part of the president of this subject, I cut him off and asked him the other great question, the Xilella fastidiosa.

The answer to this question was much more serene and calm, expressing to me not much concern on this subject. According to him, xilella fastidiosa will not cause great damage in the Spanish countryside, since our State has sufficient means for its control.

Photo 1: Interior of an olive oil cooperative

Difference between the fields of Spain and Italy

He also added that there is a great difference between the Italian and Spanish fields. The Italians are home to a great mixture of crops; cherry, almond, etc, and most of them in non-tillage cultivation systems, which has allowed an easier expansion of Xilella.

In contrast would be the Spanish fields, large monocultures with spaced planting frames in tillage. Not obtante, he made a parenthesis on the new tendencies of not ploughing in the olive grove, which could facilitate the penetration of this bacterium in the rest of the fields of Spain.

He also informed us that the bacterium Xilella fastidios is native to Puerto Rico, a bacterium that was brought by a group of Italian researchers who had the brilliant idea of testing it in half abandoned fields in Italy. After this great neglicience, it went out of their hands, they did not control it and it expanded. In Italy thousands of olive trees have had to be cut down and it is still out of control. It recently arrived in the Balearic Islands and there is no news that it has spread any further.

Hours later, by chance, I found myself in the queue of a business selling fertilisers to another president of another olive oil cooperative. After a short conversation and making ourselves known, I also asked him my two big questions.

The conversation with him was shorter, as we were both in a hurry, but he did give time to the answers to my two questions.

On the prices of olive oil, he confirmed to me the great increase that olive oil is experiencing and the next upward trend in the coming months. Also remarking me, that after the rises, comes the hangover, and that we will see until how much the prices of the oil will fall.

When I asked him about the annoying Xilella, his voice became heavier and slower, showing the gestures of his worried face. “Xilella Fastidiosa has spread throughout Italy and its expansion into Spain is possible. I hope it doesn’t happen”. He also added: “For a family that only lives from the olive grove and that this bacterium dries all its olive trees, it would lead it to complete ruin”.

I did my last interview in the evening of the same day. Although I had already spoken with this president in the morning. asking them the same questions, had again the opportunity to deepen on the subject.

Corridors and the price of olive oil

As for the prices of olive oil, he quickly answered the question with a clear affirmation, of an immeasurable rise. However, I diverted the subject on this occasion to ask him about the olive oil corridors. He told me about the continuous contact he has with the brokers and how to negotiate with them in order to get a good selling price of the oluva oil.

After telling me how he negotiates with the runners, we jumped to the Xilella. In this subject he continued with his friendly tone and apacicle that characterizes him, not showing great concern for the subject. According to him, this is more about trade wars and politics than anything else. All in order to influence the international prices of olive oil.

In my opinion, we are facing a great challenge and, as in other historical cases, this could lead to another catastrophe, which we hope will not be the case. Furthermore, the government of Spain must do everything in its power to control this bacterium and the insect vectors so that it does not cause further damage to the olive oil sector.

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