Interview with Joaquín Olivares. Delegate of Agrocolor in Jaén, Granada and Málaga.
Currently, AGROCOLOR is the first Global G.A.P. certifier in Spain and second worldwide. Can we say that the AGROCOLOR/Global G.A.P. alliance is fully consolidated?
We are very proud to be leaders in Global G.A.P. certification, but for us what is really important is that our customers trust us. They are the protagonists, and we thank them for making it possible for us to get this far. Having this leadership position, drives us to always be at the forefront of the sector, an essential requirement to provide the best service.
At Agrocolor we have always been committed to Global G.A.P., because it is the main internationally recognized standard for the sector. We feel identified with its objectives of safe and sustainable production in order to benefit producers, retailers and consumers around the world.
It would be very interesting for the olive grove to carry out the homologation of olive suppliers, through this standard, to comply with part of the BRCGS and IFS requirements. Standardizing the quality in the process from the field to the supermarket shelf, improving the retailer's confidence.
This 2023 AGROCOLOR is celebrating its 25th anniversary, what is your assessment of this time?
When Agrocolor began its journey, I remember I was still at university and certification was barely known. Who would have thought that certification would grow like this and I would end up working as an auditor? The agri-food sector has evolved so much that it is unrecognizable from twenty-five years ago. And Agrocolor has grown in the same way, accompanying farmers and the industry, to the point of becoming an ally in their chain, adding value to them.
The need to guarantee safe food to the consumer has helped quality systems to take off, and we currently certify almost one hundred schemes directly related to the agricultural and food sector.
What is the work of a certifier in the olive oil sector like?
Olive oil is an excellent product, with fantastic health properties that are recognized worldwide. But the world is changing, and consumers now demand products that are also aligned with sustainability and food safety.
The job of a certifier is to recognize the efforts made by producers through quality standards, working independently and rigorously so that the consumer can fully trust the product, and receive an oil that meets their expectations of quality and sustainability.
The Olive Oil World Congress organizes the conference 'The story of quality and sustainability' of olive oil in Granada. What is the importance for AGROCOLOR of this area as a certifier?
The olive grove and olive oil sector is fundamental for Agrocolor. This crop has such a positive impact on the environment that it is very important to guarantee that the agri-environmental measures that come to us from Europe are complied with.
In addition, as consumers, and I include myself, we want to have the peace of mind of consuming oil that is safe from the food point of view, and produced respecting the environment.
Being involved as a certifier during the process is very important, because we provide the sector with security and the experience of know-how. Certification provides the tools to guarantee food safety and also to differentiate olive oil, linking it to quality and sustainability.
What can your participation in an international project such as the Olive OilWorldCongress bring to AGROCOLOR?
A forum like the OOWC is a great loudspeaker to let the sector know that other types of strategies are possible to differentiate olive oil. Sustainability and quality are two attributes full of value for us. For the sector it is very important to be able to associate values such as origin, tradition, territory, food safety and sustainability to oil. At Agrocolor we are committed to differentiate the product with these attributes and to anticipate the future. For this, certification is the best tool, because it guarantees impartiality, rigor and transparency to the consumer, who is ultimately the protagonist along with our farmers.
Finally, where does the future of the olive oil sector lie in terms of certification?
The sector is very focused on a strategy of reducing costs and increasing production, but this is not possible in all olive producing areas. With current technology, many of them would not survive a transformation of the plantation, because they are traditional farms, rainfed and with more or less complicated orographies. At Agrocolor we see that there is another way for these olive groves, which is through the differentiation of the oil, aligning it with quality and sustainability.
We take very seriously the fact that the producing areas are suffering changes derived mainly from the climatic situation and the effect of foreign productions. We do not know its impact in the medium term, but we are experiencing it in the short term. The best way to anticipate the future is to start building it, and to this end a strategy to differentiate our prized oils is the use of systems such as designations of origin, integrated production, organic production or carbon and water footprints, and also food safety systems such as IFS or BRCGS.
For brands, the challenge is to combine creativity with sustainability, but the real challenge is to be able to guarantee the viability of our olive groves and, above all, of our villages.