Chairman’s Speech at the SA Olive Awards 2016

If you didn’t attend the SA Olive Awards evening on the 1st of September 2016, here’s SA Olive Chairman, Nick Wilkinson’s message to the SA olive industry that night:

“The SA Olive Awards evening is not just a social gathering to celebrate how real our producers are who produce oil, it’s much more than that. It’s a statement of intent, it’s the reflection of success of private enterprise.  It’s a message to government to take note and activate their national development plan.  And above all that is it a celebration of success.

We have not grown out of a previous dispensation of single channel marketing ports, state subsidies or organised agriculture. Not at all.

It has been driven by pioneering, vibrant individuals at the forefront of fine enterprise. We haven’t morphed out of the agricultural control boards and bulk commodity exports.  We don’t have a production history like apples, pears & other commodity exports.  No, we are a method, finished product. Identifiable from a geographical region, made by the personalities you see here tonight.  We have an identity – the identity is South Africa.

We are branded finished products and we’ve made a statement to the world as evidence, that is echoed by the people have spoken before me.

We are not the wine industry.  We don’t have a long history and state regulation.  We grow and pioneer our own controls and regulating our own industry.  From humble beginnings and cooperation of like-minded people we’ve got to where we are today.  We are not producers of mediocre quality, with minimal marketing, reaching out to the world of mediocre products and mediocre prices.  We cannot afford to be.  We are the new entrants to a competitive international industry, relying on the quality of our oil and our elevated way of going about our business.

We have substituted imports and our exports of the highest quality are on a growing trend.  We might be small, but we box well above our weight.  We compete against subsidised, often poor quality imports and we’re winning.  The percentage of our take off in the domestic market is growing.  We provide employment opportunities in the labour intensive industry and we train our workforce – what more can you ask for.

We have applied to government for countervailing duties, for assistance with generic marketing to educate our consumers. We’ve applied for funds to test spurious and often downright fraudulent imports. Unfortunately to no avail.  Against the background of willing stability, zero economic growth, ramped state corruption and poor leadership, we are still growing and I congratulate you.

Our crop size this year is estimated at 2.2 million litres despite the drought, despite no assistance.  Our quality is up on last year, our competition entries are up by over 20%.  International prices have dropped, yes we’ve had assistance from an exchange rate, but we are still selling more oil today than we did in the last year.  Our trend is up, our nurseries are busy.  We have innovation in terms of newer varieties.  We have nurseries visiting overseas looking for new ideas to import and to bring into our industry.  One can only wonder how much more we could achieve with aligned government policies that recognise potential and provide opportunity for all our work force.  If we get that right, if we could align the government with what you people have done here today, can you imagine how many more people we could provide with employment and make a real statement to the world?

At the moment we are .02% of the world production. That’s very small. But our winners here tonight have done us proud.  They have already brought home the levels from afar afield as New York, Los Angeles, Italy, Israel, Japan.  We have competed with the best of the best and we’ve won, and we need to recognise that, and we need to boast about it.  We ship our premium quality products, the real deal, to all corners of the globe.  We have even airfreighted oil to New York, for discerning consumers that want fresh olive oil.  We have entertained international acclaimed tasters; Dr Antonio being one.  We’ve not only marvelled at the quality of what we produce, but marvelled at the country South Africa.  What a destination.  We need to make a noise about what we are doing.  We need to communicate this to the world.

Members of our own tasting panel have been invited to adjudicate competitions in Australia & New Zealand.  Our achiever of the year is off to New Zealand in a couple of weeks’ time.  From people who produces .02% of the world production?  Surely we are doing something right.

My plight tonight is to get the message out, to get the message out that we’re one proud South African nation.  If we can get the government to activate their national development plan, recognise that what this industry can do, not for you or I that are here, but for the people who have had lesser fortunes, don’t have a job to go to everyday – we can provide that. The crop that we produce can take solidity, can take drought, it’s a hardened production plant, we can do it. We can show the world that we can grow.

We provide only 40% of what we consume in this country, there’s a ready market to catch it.  Import subsidisation, import substitution and an acknowledgement from the international world that our product competes with the best of the best.

I applaud all of you, every single one of you to go out with that message and make sure we communicate what we’re all about. So to all the winners tonight I congratulate you and more importantly I would you like you to rise and pick up charge your glasses and drink a toast to our industry.”


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