What are the greatest challenges for the olive oil sector on the Italian market?
Many are the challenges that the olive oil sector has to deal with, and this is true all over the world. The greatest however are those faced by countries that have long-standing tradition in this sector, such as Spain and Italy, but also Greece, Portugal and Northern Africa. Everybody believes that they must fight to conquer a place on the international market, but nobody seems to realize that there is space for everyone, and we should therefore forget the laws of competition, and start cooperating. Globally speaking, less than 4% of oil for human consumption in made from olives, so it is clear that there is enough space for every oil-producing country. We need to work together to promote its consumption, but must do so with acumen and integrity, without compromising on the quality and pureness of the oils.
What is your opinion on the current situation of Italian olive oil?
The situation in Italy is one of great cultural crisis. The oil market is such that the demand is much greater than the supply. We are therefore forced to import large amount of oil, in some cases up to 75% of that consumed on our market. Nobody is planting new olive trees and the old groves are being abandoned because they have become uneconomical. Innovation is a word that evokes fear, and whoever dares to innovate is accused of forsaking tradition. Despite this, I am convinced that the Italians have a great talent, and I am sure that given the current situation, they will soon turn over a new leaf. The quality of oil is there. What is lacking is quantity. I would be happy if like wines, Italy sold more foreign oils. It would be nice to see bottles of oil from Spain, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia and Morocco standing on the supermarket shelves beside those produced in our country. It would be a great sign of civility.
What are the most promising import markets for olive oil?
Certainly those that have never known such a precious oil. I believe that investing in promotion and cultural actions in China, India and other countries that have no tradition of olive oil consumption is a unique and very interesting challenge, because we must help these counties perceive the value of what is universally considered a functional food.
This is the first time you will visit WOOE, what do you expect to find in this Spanish fair?
Yes, this is my first visit to WOOE and I must admit that I am filled with curiosity, my expectations are rather high. Italy is no longer breaking ground in its ability to propose fairs and events devoted to olive oil, whereas I think Spain has all the positive energy and determination to do so. I root for you, and would be happy if more Italians came to visit your fair and realised how the olive oil sector is evolving in a country as strategic and tenacious as yours.