The event, held on 7 February 2017 in one of Morocco’s major olive growing regions, brought together public and private stakeholders to discuss how to improve the sector’s interprofessional organization and ensure quality production. For this occasion, representatives of Italian and Portuguese olive oil professional associations were also invited to share their experiences with Moroccan counterparties.
The workshop followed a four-day knowledge exchange trip to Italy in October 2016, organised for Moroccan and Tunisian olive growers, olive oil producers, traders, government representatives as well as other industry actors.
Morocco’s agriculture strategy (the Green Morocco Plan), recognizes the olive oil industry’s potential to contribute to development and national economic growth, and the country has invested significantly in olive oil production, both in primary production and processing. However, there is room for improvement.
“By reinforcing olive oil sector institutions and focusing on the quality of production, Morocco will be able to strengthen the olive oil value chain at the national level, facilitate job creation and increase exports,” said Mohamed Sadiki, Secretary General of Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries.
Moreover, Mr Michael Hage, FAO representative in Morocco, stated that “the olive oil sector in Morocco has played a role of primary importance in the Government’s PMV. In this context, priorities for development of the sector have a specific focus on aggregation, improvement of quality and efficiency all along the value chain, development of the local olive oil market and support to exports of “Made in Morocco” products”.
Promoting and defending sector interests and fostering quality of olive oil products
In 2012, Moroccan olive oil producers set up Interprolive, an interprofessional organization involving all of the country’s major private sector players for table olives and olive oil, from production to marketing.
Interprolive’s goal is to promote and defend the interests of the olive oil sector in Morocco, including the monitoring and follow-up of national and international agricultural policies and regulations.
“Right now we are focused on organizing ourselves better in terms of national representation of the industry, and have signed a ‘Contract programme’ with the Government that has allowed us to start providing services to our members, such as technical assistance and communication strategies to increase consumer awareness,” underlined Mr Ahmed Khannoufi, Director of Interprolive.
The organization has launched an advertising campaign to encourage consumers to buy better quality olive oil in bottles rather than in bulk, and has started a series of technical trainings to help members improve productivity in olive production.
Moroccan producers learning from Mediterranean counterparts
Italian and Portuguese olive oil associations have contributed to the successful development of their respective olive oil industries – providing valuable insights and ideas for their counterparts at Interprolive.
In Italy, sophisticated production and processing techniques and a well-organized supply chain have enabled the olive oil industry to become competitive and profitable, and to gain global recognition for its quality.
The presentation by the Italian Consortium for the Guarantee of Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (CEQ) –which comprises olive growers, olive oil producers, bottlers and distributors – focused on the nitty-gritty of promoting high quality extra virgin olive oils and of raising awareness amongst consumers, both domestically and abroad, allowing them to be able to recognize the oils’ quality characteristics (including strict standards that go beyond just extra virgin quality). The presentation focused on the importance of certification as a guarantee that rigorous quality standards were met.
Bottling and branding olive oil are also important for gaining consumer confidence, coupled with an effective communication strategy.
“It is important for the Moroccan Interprolive to help local consumers understand the added-value of bottled extra virgin olive oil. Quality is ensured and consumer trust is built through a well-designed logo with a proper official recognition,” said Mr Giovanni Martellini, Head of Quality in Oliveti d'Italia, one of Italy’s largest and most important consortia of olive growers, cooperatives, oil mills, producer associations and firms.
The Portuguese experience shows that a small and efficient industry association can produce valuable services for its members in terms of labelling, quality policies, statistical analysis and regulations.
“Casa do Azeite is not an association of producers, but an association of companies that sell bottled olive oil on a national scale,” said Ms Mariana Matos, General Secretary of Casa do Azeite. “We focus on bridging the gaps between public and private sectors by defending the interests of the olive oil companies in Portugal. We are close to the ground so we really understand our members’ concerns.”
“We also seek out additional funding to promote Portuguese olive oil brands in key export markets and assist companies seeking to export,” she added.
Rising global olive oil consumption and supply challenges in leading producing countries such as Italy and Portugal present interesting opportunities for Morocco. However, more work needs to be done to maximize the potential of Moroccan olive oils, including supporting initiatives aimed at increasing value chain integration to boost quality standards, value addition and export development.
Interprolive has great potential to contribute to the industry’s development, and an important role to play in providing its members with legislative, technical and marketing support. The organization is still in its infancy, which is why strengthening its capacity, particularly by sharing knowledge and developing partnerships with similar institutions at home and across the Mediterranean, is so important.
“We are inspired by what these other institutions in Italy and Portugal have achieved, and are very interested in cooperating with them in the future as we grow,” confirmed the director of Interprolive.
FAO and the EBRD will build on the workshop’s experiences – including support for the promotion of higher quality olive oil in Morocco – to foster public-private dialogue and cooperation for a more efficient and inclusive olive oil sector.