“It’s our evening to boast, celebrate and share the spoil of another successful campaign in making olive oil.”
But first a few thank you’s – Eloise from Absa, you are the face of Absa, you have shown the belief in us in your ongoing sponsorship and obviously convincing the powers that be of Absa to continue sponsoring us with funds and putting us on the map of creating awareness for our industry. We thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to the Absa Top 10.
A big thank you to the tasting panel, Sue Langstaff, lovely to have you back here. What she doesn’t tell you, but what I remember about last year, she can tell you about beer, she can tell you about wine, she can tell you about olive oil and she can tell you about food. And has she got a palate which obviously our own panel has learnt from, thank you, Sue. To the rest of the panel, you obviously dedicated a lot of time and effort to make this possible. I have no doubt that this years’ panel is best described as world class in determining the winner for tonight, thank you to all of you.
Unfortunately, our two international judges, Pablo & Jose had to travel back to South America, but we owe them a huge vote of thanks for adding international flavour and extra credibility to our panel. For those who attended the courses that they put on, I am sure you will leave far more enlightened as to how much further we can drive the boundaries of quality and production in pursuing perfection in the art of making premium olive oil. It might be interesting for you to know a little bit about Jose and Pablo who couldn’t join us tonight. Jose is from Chili and is one of the main drivers of the strategy of putting Chilean wines on the world supermarket shelves. So successful was he, that he was then pursued by the olive oil fraternity to try and do the same for olive oil. This guy has got talent, never mind just in the testing grounds. They changed a country that had 95% of their supermarket olive oils as imported and within two years reversed to literally no imported olive oils in Chile. We’ve got something to learn from these guys. Pablo, for those of you who had attended his course, would know that he’s had 12 years with Boundary Bend Olives, for those of you that don’t know Boundary Bend produces more quality olive oil than what we do as a country and that’s one company. They are world leaders when it comes to producing quality olive oil and I’m sure that most of you who attended his course will agree with me that it is the certainly the most informative, best course about producing olive oil that I’ve attended. I do hope these guys return to our shores in times to come.
And now you lot, our producers, the Oscars of tonight. What more could you have contended with than this last year, a perilous drought, extremely different growing season where all your olives ripened at the same time. We were faced with declining oil prices, some 30% in euro terms. In addition to that, we had a dithering government in terms of policy, land-based restitution, a national development plan that’s never happened. Even worse inabilities to manage the affairs of this country with rampant fraud, theft through most government departments and SEO’s, a threat to the declining exchange rate. An increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots, unemployment increasing, wage demands in the sense of delivery protests and against these odds we’ve succeeded yet again in producing world premium class olive oil. Well done to you all.
As much as you think it is been in vain believe you me, it is not. The world is changing. There are positives on the horizon. Major established producers are being challenged in the USA right now and in their own countries by the quality producers having a go at them for fraudulent labelling and passing off counterfeits as extra virgin olive oil. But, the consumers are taking note. More stringent standards in the USA and Australia, the new world producers, although voluntary, have forced European exporters to up their game and to lift of the whole profile of olive oil going to these countries. Export volumes of pomace olive oil have shown enormous growth, these statistics are misleading. In reality, all that’s happening is that they’ve been forced to disclose as pomace oil rather than disclosing it as extra virgin in years gone by.
The educated consumers are more discerning and know the difference between good, fresh olive oil and the rubbish that’s been on shelves for too long and they are the rising force that we have to join hands with. Good restaurants know they will be challenged if they put on their tables inferior olive oil. And either you or its consumers visiting should ask them why they would like to spoil a really good salad with inferior olive oil when really the price factor is 2 to 3% of the overall cost. We live in a world where the consumers want to know who their producer is, they want the comfort to know the real deal. None of this pretend stuff and passing off rubbish as the good stuff and we’ve got to be aware of this and weave into it and join hands and move along with this thought.
A revolution is happening before our eyes. Statistical evidence will show you that there is a shortage of extra virgin olive oil against consumption in the world. It might not be there in huge lit up letters but it’s there, the bigger movers in the European producers, the Spanish producers and even in America there is a recognition for what has gone on for too long and cannot go any further and that there will be a gap for extra virgin olive oil quality. The new world producers, including South Africa are on the map. Yes, thanks to you guys, we are on the map. No longer will we have to play second fiddle to the legacy of traditional producing countries. We are as good, if not better. The market price variation is in the public domain. The price differentials between good and bad olive oil are beginning to be understood. There is no truer saying until you’ve tasted good olive oil you have no idea what bad, bad olive tastes. Why is the Italian producer price indicator as published by the IOC 60% higher than Greece and Spain and yet Italy produces barely enough to feed itself? For interest sake, statistics today in pricing show that the Italian index is at R69 a litre of oil against Greece at R43. How can there be such a big spread? It is perhaps reflective of the reality of paying up for decent quality as against mass produced rubbish in the likes of Spanish producers the public are now recognising.
I believe opportunity knocks, sometimes very softly and if you believe a rising tide lifts all boats, then it is time! We stand together as producers, who can make a difference, pushing our quality, growing our producer base, building export markets to become part of the solution to the hills of our country. We have the ability to not double, quadruple, but probably tenfold increase this industry by providing opportunities and employment, thus becoming part of the solutions in solving the problems of this country. To you the producers and the winners today, I salute you on a job well done. Congratulations.