José Luis García-Lomas: 'Caja Rural plays an active agent role in Jaén'

José Luis García-Lomas: "Caja Rural plays an active agent role in Jaén"

Interview with the President of Caja Rural de Jaén

05/27/2014 - Speaking of Caja Rural de Jaén is speaking of an entity -the first in market share in the Andalusian province- closely linked to the olive sector from its origins, which strives to support all industry players in those activities and needs related to the production and marketing of olive oil.

Coinciding with the launch of Mercacei Magazine 79 we publish an excerpt from the Interview with José Luis García-Lomas, president of Caja Rural de Jaén.

What specific products and services does Caja Rural de Jaén offer to the olive oil sector? What differentiates your proposals from those of other institutions in Jaén?
We have a huge historical link with agriculture at all levels. It is rare that a small farmer in Jaén does not have an account at Caja Rural, hasn’t entrusted their savings, turned to us when trying to improve their plantations and install new irrigation systems, or when the harvest hasn’t been good hasn’t required our help. Caja Rural has always responded to them. We maintain offices in small towns prioritizing service and proximity to our customers, and that is something the customer perceives and appreciates.

We are speaking about being the first financial institution in the cooperative segment, the one with the highest penetration. At times when agricultural cooperatives were not “good business” for entities with a more global listing, we maintained our commitment to them, offering safe products without “harmful effects” for both the organization and for our partners, even sacrificing financial margins in other sectors, such as construction.

Now that during the past two years, large financial institutions have returned their interest in the primary sector as a refuge, in Caja Rural we are years ahead, having made sustained efforts of vinculation based on trust and support of our customers, and being profitability one of our priorities, but not the only one deciding our management.

Caja Rural plays an active agent role in Jaén and that is what the customer requires from us, being this one of our clearest differential values.

You became president of Caja Rural de Jaén in 1985. From his position, what are the major changes experienced by the olive and olive oil sector in these three decades?
Clearly, the progressive orientation towards quality that is reflected throughout the value chain. We still have a long way to go, but in the last thirty years the awareness of the sector towards improving the cultivation of olives, oil production and marketing has evolved very positively.

Crops have been modernized, increasing yields per hectare; irrigation systems have improved, optimizing the use of such a valuable resource as water; and there have been huge investments in researching about composting techniques and cures of the olive tree. Nowadays, the farmer takes a better care of its olives.

Cooperatives and mills have expanded their facilities and modernized their processes with sophisticated machinery that allows higher quality oils, while improving fruit yields, and evolving in the art and storage capacity to retain high quality product until its sale.

The most visible change in the last decade is the creation of high quality Spanish brands that are getting international awards, acting as the spearhead of the entire category of Spanish olive oil, and this benefits the whole sector. Radical changes are also observed in the market, represented by an increase in competition, since every year thousands of hectares of olive groves come into production in countries like New Zealand or South Africa, for example. These producers break hard into the market, with institutional support and large investments. These countries have a similar Mediterranean weather but with a much lower cost of land. In Europe arable land is a finite commodity, our ability to introduce new cultivation areas is exhausted.

Another determining factor is the internationalization of the market. Years ago we sold our olive oil in very limited markets, today the whole world is our potential customer. Japan, Ukraine, India… Extra virgin olive oil is being gradually incorporated into the local cuisine, erasing traditional cultural barriers in consumption.

Spain is full of Japanese restaurants and in Japan they use Spanish olive oil in their kitchens. This itself is an enormous change. And we must not forget the growing consumer orientation to food products which are “healthy”, a factor which certainly benefits us, because olive oil is the healthier vegetable fat for human consumption.

In the key of marketing, what services are offered by Caja Rural de Jaén in order to promote the export of the province’s olive oil?
In Caja Rural we have all the necessary means for our clients to work out their exports. Because as we have deep knowledge about the olive oil sector, we are in the best position to advise exporters in how to finance their operations and ensure safety in the collection of their receivables.

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