Education, promotion and communication: the challenges of Portuguese olive cultivation
The World Olive Oil Exhibition, the world’s biggest fair devoted to olive oil, organized a Pequeno Almoço (Breakfast) in the city of Beja where the most influential people from the sector attended to debate about “Innovation as a ground-breaking strategy in the field of global olive cultivation”.
Madrid, 24th of January 2020. The World Olive Oil Exhibition, is the world’s largest event devoted to olive oil and will be held in Madrid on the 18th and 19th of March. Since we are aware of the importance this sector has in Portugal, a Pequeno Almoço (Breakfast meeting) was held in the Portuguese city of Beja, in the region of Alentejo, with the participation of the Mercacei publishing group.
Through this event, the WOOE aimed to place Portugal in a prominent position with regards to the olive oil sector. Not by accident, with a harvest of 150,000 tonnes this year, Portugal has positioned itself as one of the most important producers on a global scale. In fact, the Alentejo is precisely the region that has now become considered cutting edge: “It is the number one in production and it is a leader in innovation, which is demonstrated by the increase in production from 15% to 75% on a domestic level in only 15 years”, commented José Luis Murcia, director of the WOOE. To which Juan Vilar, strategic consultant, added: “Given the size of crop areas, the water and the economic and political stability, the conditions that exist in the Alentejo cannot be found anywhere else in the world”.
This breakfast was held under the statement: “Innovation as a ground-breaking strategy in the field of global olive cultivation”, tackling crucial issues such as the repercussions that modernization has had on the olive oil sector. “The Alentejo is the region of Portugal with the most ageing population, triggering young people to look for opportunities elsewhere. Nevertheless, the sector became more professional and began to seek out skilled people and a higher payment”, declared Álvaro Labella, director of Olivum. “We have recovered abandoned lands and we have shifted from being an importing country to an exporting one, but we have failed to communicate what we are doing in the fields, which is, no more and no less, a sustainable form of agriculture”, added Francisco Pavao, president of APPITAD. In the words of José García Duarte, president of the Agricultural Cooperative Moura e Barrancos, “the modernization of the olive groves has triggered a huge transformation for the farmers; we have now larger yields of olives, an improved profitability, skilled jobs and all of this as part of a circular economy”. All of this goes beyond the field of agriculture: “The universities have come to realize that the olive grove is a professional career opportunity and have focused on technology, engineering, etc.”, mentioned Luis Mira, president of Ucasul.
Moreover, the aforementioned modernization of the olive oil sector in Portugal has provoked Portugal to become an example for other countries; in fact, there are already 147 Spanish people who are investing in Portugal. “Everyone who wants to invest in olive oil is coming here. We have almost increased fourfold our production and our exports fivefold, however we have a major problem and that consumption is dropping”, assured Mariana Matos, secretary-general of Casa Do Azeite. “Indeed we have the supply, but we need to work on demand and that can only be done with promotion. We are immersed in the Mediterranean diet, though we do not sufficiently exploit it”, pointed out Gonçalo Morais, president of CEPAAL. Accordingly, Vasco Cortes, director of ELAIA certified: “Too little has been said about olive oil, whereas there’s a great deal of talk about other types of fats and, in Portugal and in Spain, we cannot neglect olive oil promotion”. “We fail to communicate the message that the Mediterranean diet is healthy and we also have to add that people are steadily cooking less and less and that the olive oil consumer is an older person”, remarked José Godinho, regional director of Agriculture in the Alentejo. For José Pedro Salema, president of EDIA, “if we add to all those points that environmental impact regarding olive oil production is zero, we could be at the agricultural forefront.”
In spite of the giant qualitative and quantitative leap forward made by Portugal —and specifically the Alentejo— concerning olive cultivation, everyone present agreed that way more promotion, communication and education is needed for the sector to continue to grow and establish within those parameters of modernity which have led Portugal to rank as one of the global pioneers.
Attending the breakfast were: María Matos, from Casa Do Azeite; Vasco Cortes, Pedro Lopes and Álvaro Labella, of Olivium; Gonçalo Morais, president of CEPAAL; Luis Mira, president of UCASUL; Francisco Pavao, president of APPITAD; José Godinho, regional director of DRAPAL; José Pedro Salema, president of EDIA and José García Duarte, president of Agricultural Cooperative Moura e Barrancos. The discussion was moderated by José Luis Murcia, director of the WOOE; Juan Vilar, strategic consultant and international olive oil analyst, and Juan Peñamil, CEO of Mercacei group.
Precisely, Mercacei will publish an extensive report on this Breakfast that took place in Beja (Portugal) in its forthcoming February issue.