Trump puts squeeze on Spanish olive oil producers

15 October, 2019 12:00 AM printer

ANTEQUERA: Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the announcement that Washington would slap hefty tariffs on their produce.

“We are really worried,” said Carlos Carreira at his 130 hectare (320 acre) olive grove near the town of Antequera in the southern region of Andalusia, reports AFP.

Spain is the world’s biggest producer of olive oil, and the bulk of it comes from Andalusia, whose hills and plains are dotted with olive trees with their distinctive gnarled trunks.

“Already last year prices were sometimes so low that they did not cover production costs. If we add to this a sharp rise in the price of our products in the United States, many farms may end up not being viable,” Carreira added.

Several thousand olive growers, many waving olive branches marched through Madrid on Thursday to protest plunging prices and demand protection from a 25 percent tax which the US is planning to impose from October 18.

The fresh tariffs announced October 2 target some EU agricultural and industrial products — including Spanish olives and olive oil — worth $7.5 billion (6.8 billion euros).

The tariffs are in retaliation for subsidies given by Brussels to aircraft maker Airbus.

Olives and olive oil are Spain’s main agricultural exports to the United States. It exported 405 million euros worth of olive oil, and 179 million euros worth of olives, to the country last year.

At Carreira’s farm, a dozen day labourers used machines to shake the olive trees, causing the fruit to fall onto long nets.

Still bright green, they will be sold as table olives. Olive oil production will begin a few weeks later when riper olives will be collected.

But some of this “liquid gold”, which sustains entire villages, risks going unsold this year because of the tariffs.

Dcoop, the cooperative which Carreira belongs to and whose headquarters sit at the entrance to Antequera, exports nearly 15 percent of its output to the US, around 35,000 tonnes a year.


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