Debate on olive industry challenges amid Covid-19

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Koper – Marking World Olive Tree Day, the participants of Thursday’s online roundtable discussion talked about challenges of Slovenia’s olive industry which stem from competitiveness issues as well as coronavirus restrictions.

The olive industry should become an independent sector, branching out from the fruit industry, the debate, held by the Science and Research Centre Koper (ZRS) and the Union of Associations of Slovenian Olive Growers, heard.

Given the decreasing number of olive oil producers in the country, Slovenia should strive for supreme quality, Milena Bučar Miklavčič, the head of an olive industry task force of the Agriculture Ministry, said.

Branko Ravnik, the head of the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry, highlighted efforts to boost competitiveness and the market share of Slovenian oil at home as a couple of main challenges.

Andreja Bizjak with the Food Safety Administration said that monitoring pesticide residues had never been a problem for Slovenian olive growers, however oil grower Gregor Lisjak begged to differ, saying that without effective phytopharmaceuticals for pest control he and his colleagues will not be able to compete with olive growers from other countries.

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Lisjak noted that Slovenian oil was taxed significantly more heavily than, for example, olive oil in Italy.

He also pointed to problems arising from the pandemic, such as a lack of workforce. During the olive picking season, Slovenian olive growers used to get help from foreign seasonal workers.

In Croatian Istria lots of people were willing to help, however they had problems crossing the border amid coronavirus restrictions, Lisjak said.

Vladimir Uršič of the Union of Associations of Slovenian Olive Growers urged the ministry to regulate promotional mechanisms to ensure products with a protected label of origin would be at least equally promoted as products bearing a label of selected quality.

Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek pointed out that the olive industry had suffered the same impact of Covid-19 as the rest of the agricultural sector due to changes in shopping habits. He added that the industry would be in focus of the next agricultural policy strategy.

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