US tariffs to have dramatic impact on Spanish olive oil sector and beyond

Source: Published: 2019/10/19 10:38:57

US President Donald Trump attends a joint press conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (not in the picture) at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 2, 2019. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

As the United States starts on Friday to impose 25 percent tariffs on European products worth 7.5 billion US dollars, an insider of Spanish olive oil exporters fears that the measure will have dramatic impact on the country's olive oil industry and beyond.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Rafael Pico, president of the Spanish Olive Oil & Pomace Olive Oil Exporters Association (ASOLIVA), said the 25 percent tariff on bottled Spanish olive oil means the product will be effectively "expelled" from the US market.

Spain currently exports around 200,000 tons of olive oil to the US every year. Spanish olive oil is sold in large US chain stores such as Walmart where "prices are very important," Pico explained.

If Spanish olive oil is affected while similar products from other countries such as Italy, Greece, Australia, Tunisia and Morocco are not, their products would surely be much cheaper and more attractive to customers, he said.

Oct. 10 saw olive producers from all over Spain marched through Madrid under the banner "Precios justos para un olivar vivo" (Fair prices for a living olive trees) and demanded measures to guarantee a "dignified" future for a sector which around 250,000 Spanish families rely on for their livelihood.

Olive oil bottles are presented at the World Olive Oil Exhibition in Madrid, Spain, on March 21, 2018. (Xinhua/Guo Qiuda)

Pico believes that the tariffs would cause job losses. "There are a lot of industries with localized exports to the US which are going to have to close their doors, while others will see their capacity reduced," he noted.

"We are not just talking about olive oil, but all of the materials which we won't be able to export. All of the bottles, lids, labels, boxes and containers... insurance companies, shipping companies and others will also suffer a loss of clients," the president added.

"We are talking about 200,000 tons of Spanish olive oil which will be affected," stressed Pico, who put the blame on US President Donald Trump.

The tariffs are "a political decision by the Trump administration" aimed at putting pressure on the European Union (EU) to accept US agricultural produce," he said.

"What Trump is looking for is an agricultural agreement with the EU," he noted, adding that "three years ago the EU refused to open conversations over any agreement because the US wants to export hormone treated meat and genetically modified produce and the EU doesn't want to open that market."

"This is a measure to pressure the EU," he believed, calling for a "political response from Europe," although he doubted that response would come, as products such as Italian olive oil and French champagne are not included in the new tariffs, making it harder for the EU to find a unified solution.

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