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Document 52004AE0310

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘proposal for a Council Regulation on the common organisation of the market in olive oil and table olives and amending Regulation (EEC) No. 827/68’ (COM(2003) 698 final – 2003/0279 (CNS))

OJ C 110, 30.4.2004, p. 24–25 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

30.4.2004   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 110/24


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘proposal for a Council Regulation on the common organisation of the market in olive oil and table olives and amending Regulation (EEC) No. 827/68’

(COM(2003) 698 final – 2003/0279 (CNS))

(2004/C 110/07)

On 1 December 2003, the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 36 and Article 37(2), third paragraph, of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 5 February 2004. The rapporteur was Mrs Santiago.

At its 406th plenary session held on 25 and 26 February 2004 (meeting of 25 February), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 103 votes to three with two abstentions:

1.   Introduction

1.1

The Commission is proposing to amend the Oils and Fats Regulation, 136/66 EEC, which will no longer be in force after 1 November 2004. The new Regulation will cover olive oil and table olives, comprising measures for the internal market, trade with third countries and the promotion of quality in the broad sense of the term. The Commission is proposing that, after an interim marketing year in 2004 of eight months, and starting in 2005, the marketing year for olive oil should run from 1 July. It is also proposing that the current private storage measures for olive oil should be retained and that the refunds relating both to the export and the manufacture of foodstuffs preserved in olive oil should be repealed. The existing quality and traceability measures will also have to be reinforced.

2.   General comments

2.1

The EESC welcomes the legislative simplification entailed in the new proposal to which it would nevertheless wish to add the following comments:

2.2

Operators' organisations — Article 7. Approved operators' organisations should comprise only producers' organisations and interbranch organisations and no others. The Committee feels that in this way the interests of producers and processors would be better protected than at present with intervention from parties outside the sector.

2.3

Work — Article 8. Three-year programmes aimed at improving quality, the environmental impact of olive cultivation and product information dissemination and promotion should also be able to be carried out in non-Member and Member States already producing or beginning to produce olive oil, be they new or potential consumers, such as France, Australia, Peru and others.

2.3.1

The EESC feels that it is most important for the sector that the quality strategy be promoted, and it stresses the need to step up financial support for such measures, compliance with which would be more effective if they were integrated into the relevant COM.

2.3.2

The EESC would draw the Commission's attention to the key work carried out by the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) on such important issues as the promotion and improvement of olive oil quality; it stresses that the IOOC should continue to develop these activities, with the appropriate checks.

2.3.3

The EESC feels that the work programmes of operators' organisations should include measures to concentrate supply and market own-brand oils in the production sector itself.

2.4

Trade with third countries — Article 11. Partial or full suspension of common customs duties for olive oil does not seem to be necessary for a product which is not perishable and the market for which is growing. The Commission justifies this measure in the fourteenth whereas of its proposal, referring to the need to ensure an adequate supply of the internal market, while in parallel underlining the fact that olive oil exports have doubled in the last ten years.

2.5

Export refunds. It would be wise to maintain these refunds for a given period of time so that the parties concerned can become aware of the impact of the present reform on developments in both EU olive oil production and prices. Maintaining these arrangements, which in practice have no financial impact given that export refunds have been set at zero since 1998, would nonetheless mean that such refunds could be brought into play in the event of any major market upsets resulting from the proposal in hand; this would secure competitiveness for Community olive oil on the world market.

2.6

Aid for private storage. This system — which has already proven ineffective since it is not tailored to the realities of the market — must be a flexible automatic trigger system, designed only to be used to resolve major crises in the sector. It is also necessary to update the trigger prices in the light of the present price references.

2.7

Quality standards. The EESC reiterates the need for a total ban within the EU on blends of olive oil with other vegetable oils (1).

2.7.1

The technical difficulty involved in analysing and monitoring blends, the percentage of olive oil included and the quality thereof, makes it difficult to check strict compliance with Article 6 of Regulation 1019/2002. This opens the door to fraud, which only contributes to the deteriorating quality and image of olive oil, in addition to being detrimental to the consumer.

2.7.2

The introduction of other food oils mixed with olive oil not only is damaging to this high quality product, but also means that consumers are buying a product which, compared to olive oil, is acknowledged as being of inferior food quality.

2.8

Designation of origin. In order to protect and promote quality, the EESC further stresses that the origin of olive oil must be determined by the place of origin of the olives used.

2.9

The EESC would alert the Commission and the producer countries to the serious problems affecting the olive-pomace oil sub-sector as a result of the so-called benzopyrene crisis which has — since it began in July 2001 — caused major losses in the sector, reflected in a 70 % drop in the price and a 50 % fall in consumption, in comparison with the situation before the crisis.

2.9.1

The EESC urges the Commission to set maximum levels for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in olive-pomace oil; such a move has been pending for more than two years and this has been seriously detrimental to the sector.

Brussels, 25 February 2004.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Roger BRIESCH


(1)  NAT/102; OJ C 221 of 7.8.2001, pp. 68-73.


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