'CIA Agricoltori Italiani strives for a competitive, innovative and open olive growing industry'

What is the activity of CIA Agricoltori Italiani in the olive and olive oil sector in Italy?

CIA Agricoltori Italiani is one of the largest professional agricultural organizations in Europe and Italy. It represents more than 900,000 main members, direct growers and agricultural entrepreneurs, and pursues, among its objectives, the protection and development of farmers and agricultural enterprises in general and, therefore, of olive growing in particular, working for the protection of olive growers' income, the affirmation of the role of olive growing not only as a productive sector but also as a heritage of the territory and of the landscape, the support to the competitiveness of olive growing enterprises on national, community and international markets. For CIA Agricoltori Italiani, olive growing is a defense of the territory, a source of income for farms located throughout the country and the supply of a food of recognized nutritional value, for which it fights for a competitive, innovative and open olive growing, linked on the one hand to the territory and on the other to the market.

What initiatives does the association carry out to promote the olive and olive oil sector in Italy?

CIA Agricoltori Italiani drafts legislative proposals and dialogues with institutions at all levels to guide sector policies, promotes the role of olive growing and the companies it represents through public and private initiatives in areas such as internationalization and aggregation, dialogues with other sector organizations and stimulates cooperation and interprofessional initiatives.

In particular, it supports policies aimed at increasing a national production that safeguards quality and relations with the territories, as well as actions to strengthen research to make the sector sustainable and competitive and initiatives for the aggregation of farmers. Through the Associations of the confederal system, it also aims to enhance some relevant specificities of the olive world, such as organic production (21% of the olive-growing areas are cultivated organically) and the short supply chain, rural catering and food education, and the circular economy.

What is the situation of the olive oil and olive oil sector in Italy?

The Italian production system covers an area of 1.1 million hectares and consists mainly of traditional olive cultivation in small farms. In the last 10 years, the Italian olive growing heritage has suffered an abandonment of olive growing areas of about 23%, without taking into account the loss of about 21 million olive trees affected by Xylella fastidiosa. Despite the growing threats, we want to look to the future with optimism and work on the modernization of both production and processing facilities, as well as on generational renewal, without losing sight of the values of identity.

We have areas with a strong olive growing vocation in contexts also of recognized landscape value, 50 denominations of origin between PDO and PGI that speak of the beauty and know-how of Italian territories and a unique biodiversity that must be protected. Resistance olive growing, which plays an irreplaceable role for many territories, coexists with entrepreneurial and organized olive growing, which gives rise to cooperatives and producers' organizations and is part of the complex supply chain composed not only of millers, but also of wholesalers and intermediaries, the bottling and canning industry and trade. Despite our record, we still need to improve the organization of production and supply chain relations. The 2023-2024 campaign is proving exceptional in terms of prices at origin which, however, in the ordinary course of events are highly variable from one year to the next; we continue to record considerable values for domestic consumption which, unfortunately, are decreasing and are affected by inflation and the difficult economic situation. The importance of olive oil consumption and quality needs to be further promoted through cooperation among producing countries.

CIA Agricoltori Italiani, together with other agricultural associations, has recently signed an ethical-social pact for Italian and Apulian olive growing as a whole. What does this pact consist of and how will it help the country's olive oil producers?

Together with important supply chain associations, we have recently launched and supported precisely an ethical-social pact of transparency towards consumers, with team actions to promote conscious consumption. Italy has always been synonymous with extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality. Despite this, in recent years market prices have not reflected a fair and adequate value that would allow farms to earn sufficient income and put them in a financial position to continue on the path of high quality. Olive farms have resisted, continued to produce and build a path to improve the quality and value of their olive groves, and have also contributed to making consumers more aware of the traceability and wholesomeness of their production. Considering the favorable qualitative and quantitative situation that this year characterizes in particular some important Italian production basins such as Puglia, and in order to avoid phenomena of strong market speculation to the detriment of the sector, it has been decided to work together precisely to counteract inequalities, defend quality and guarantee a fair remuneration of the work of thousands of olive producers.

What are the main challenges currently facing Italian olive oil production and what are the challenges for the future?

There are two main challenges both now and in the future: climate change and competitiveness, for which sustainability can only be understood and pursued in its triple social, economic and environmental dimension. The production on which the entire supply chain is based must counteract exceptional climatic phenomena, urgently needs to structure its organization to prevent and minimize risks and, at the same time, is continually called upon to innovate to contain costs and guarantee the safety and quality that enable it to remain on the market. The fair distribution of income in the supply chain and the fight against the abandonment of inland areas with agriculture, and therefore olive growing, at the center, as protagonist, are for CIA Agricoltori Italiani the priorities on which to build the present and future union activity.

How can the congress help to further boost the sector in Italy and contribute to its growth?

The Congress will help to raise awareness of the role of olive growing in both economic and environmental terms and will encourage exchanges on technical solutions, but also on common strategies and possible synergies between operators. It is essential to join efforts to increase the consumption of olive oil in the world and it is the responsibility of the producers to trace and undertake successful ways to do so.