Protecting Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

17 May 2015

Italian olive growing is experiencing a moment of extreme difficulty, threatening the immense heritage of olive trees, farmers and olive-pressers that populate the peninsula right down to the southernmost islands. The crisis is linked to the industrialization of olive cultivation and a market increasingly orientated towards the lowest price. Last year also saw climatic events and pests practically annul the harvest.   


On May 16, Slow Food and producers across Italy officially launched a new project that aims to reverse this current devastating trend. The Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Presidium is the first of its kind for Slow Food, representing producers throughout Italy (as opposed to those in a particular region). Given that most producers in the country are facing the same plight, it seemed only natural to launch a broader project.


Speaking at the launch event (which took place during Slow Fish 2015 in Genoa), Slow Food Italy President, Gaetano Pascale, highlighted the urgent need for such an initiative: “With launch of this Presidium we are sounding an alarm: more and more olive trees are gradually being abandoned because of rising costs and increased competition. The result is an irreversible loss of biodiversity.”


The Presidium will promote the environmental, landscape, health and economic value of Italian extra-virgin olive oil, and inform consumers about the qualities of good, clean and fair oil. Francesca Baldereschi, in charge of the Italian Slow Food Presidia outlined the principles behind the project: The olive growers who join the Presidium must have olive groves with cultivars that are indigenous to the area and managed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or herbicides. In the case of treatment, only products with low environmental impact and that guarantee no residual in the final product are allowed. In the case of slopes or difficult terrain, the work in the fields must follow good agronomic practices to avoid erosion and landslides. Furthermore, seeing as pruning and harvesting the olives from centuries-old plants is more burdensome compared to younger plants, to avoid the abandonment of the oldest olive plants, joining the Presidium requires that at least 80% of the plants are at least 100 years old. Finally, producers must use a narrative label to sufficiently recount and promote their stories, territory and work.


At present there are 26 producers involved in the Presidium with potential for many more to join. You can find out more here: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Presidium

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