EU olive tree growers are up in arms

ROME – The EU’s olive oil reform plan threatens the survival of olive areas in Italy and southern European producers are preparing a common front to fight it, an Italian industry official said yesterday. The European Commission adopted proposals to reform the olive oil, cotton and tobacco sectors within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on Tuesday. The main element of the reform plan is to break the link between production and subsidy, a concept known as decoupling. For olive oil producers with holdings larger than 0.3 hectares, 60 percent of subsidies would be decoupled, while 40 percent of payments would be redistributed on an area or «per tree» basis. In Italy, a large share of olive oil production is in the poor south of the country. Some 40 percent of national output is in the southern region of Puglia. «We are trying to boost quality and prevent marginal areas from suffering social and economic damage, but the olive oil reform proposals do exactly the opposite,» said Nicola Ruggiero, president of Italian olive oil producers’ group UNAPROL. «We are far from a solution in the reform of the sector.» Later, Ruggiero told Reuters that the EU reform proposal would put jobs at risk in traditional olive-growing areas and that Italian producers were working with their counterparts in Spain and Greece to present a common position against the plan. «We hope to prepare a joint document in October,» he said from Puglia. «We are united in our defense of the olive oil sector.»

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