Nick’s Speech – SA Olive Awards 2019

“Reach out to your fellow South Africans and educate them as to how quality olive oil can assist with general health.”

Welcome to the SA Olive annual competition awards to celebrate and applaud our producers who once again have produced quality extra virgin olive oil which compares favourably with the best of the best on a world stage.

It’s your night tonight to celebrate and enjoy the feel-good factor of a job well done. But firstly, such events don’t just happen. Thanks to Reni and the CTC tasting panel, the unsung heroes who evaluate oils on a weekly basis and provide the backbone to the improving qualities we see each year in our competition.

The competition tasting panel is selected from our CTC participants and team up with three international professional tasters to judge the competition entries. Under leadership of Müge from turkey, Pablo from Argentina and Jose from Chile, and our own selected tasters, they have spent a long week evaluating oils. You have all dedicated a lot of time and effort to make this all possible and we look forward to your determination of worthy winners tonight. A big thank you to all of you!

I ask Müge, Reni, Benedetta, Louise, Theresa and Maré to come forward and accept a small token of our appreciation for a job well done. And in their absence a big thank you to the male contingent of Pablo and Jose who have already departed our shores.

For those of you who attended their respective training courses by both Müge and Pablo, I am sure you are far more enlightened as to how much further we can drive the boundaries of quality and production in pursuing the art of making premium extra virgin olive. A big thank you and we hope they return to our shores.

Thanks to Absa bank for continuing to believe in us with ongoing sponsorship. You help enormously in continuing to reward our winners with growing market awareness and genuinely add value to our local industry. Salute!

In reading over my address of last year it became abundantly clear that not much has changed over the year in terms of our current state of affairs. If anything, we are worse off with even more negative sentiment after the short-lived ramaphoria. Growth is negative, unemployment is growing, crime and corruption is out of control and government has yet to make the hard decisions needed to correct the self destruction of the last decade. I remain the eternal optimist believing the darkest hour is the hour before the dawn.

Average international oil prices are substantially down on last year on the back of a record Spanish crop, but there is a shortage of high quality oil as evidenced by a 40% increase in the Italian oil prices. Initial forecasts for Spanish 2019/20 crop are 50% down on volume and we have had good rain this season.  We are entering a positive cycle and our celebrations tonight need to be followed by a long hard look at what more we as an industry need to do if we wish to be part of the solution to our woes. In terms of the current status quo in the country.

I am reminded of a quote from Ayn Rand in 1957 “when you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion. When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing. When you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favours. When you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you. When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.”

We can therefore no longer sit on the side lines, waiting for something positive to happen. Awards on their own unfortunately don’t sell olive oil. We cannot wait for government and their national development plan to maybe happen or for buyers to come to us on the basis of our quality achievements. We are a fledgling industry with good credentials on quality, we proportionately employ a lot of people and we have a local market which already consumes 3 times what we produce.

Competition is not amongst ourselves, but rather the subsidised imports. The cheap nasty rubbish that enters our country unchallenged, fraudulently labelled and skewing the perception on price of our locally produced oils. It’s no longer what SA Olive can do for us, but rather a concerted effort by all of us to challenge, shout from the rooftops and let it be known that we can replace imports, grow the industry and employ more people. We all need to challenge the retailers to reduce reliance on poor quality imports which keep Europeans in employment at the cost of our own fellow South Africans.

We simply cannot sit back and watch whilst our country burns  – it is time for bold steps to make yourself heard above the noise – recognise a change of heart is needed and take responsibility to for our actions –  we will no longer stand back, but rather use every opportunity in our daily lives to challenge and push for responsible government and positive change. Get on board with SA Olive and let’s make a difference! If this message doesn’t get you going to be proactive in every sense of the word then don’t cry foul as the silent majority when it is too late! It’s time to teach and convert consumers to appreciate the taste of good olive oil along with its many health benefits.

No-one appreciates how bad, bad olive oil tastes until one taste good olive oil – make it your mission to get this message through to as many people as you can. Challenge the restaurants that dish up imported rubbish, question your local supermarket manager as to why he chooses to stock his shelves with poor quality imports and exacerbate our unemployment problems. Reach out to your fellow South Africans and educate them as to how quality olive oil can assist with general health.

A groundswell movement motivating positive change, questioning poor governance and offering solutions is desperately needed to get this ship, South Africa, back on track and be the country we all wish to live and prosper in. It is time we stand together as producers who can make a difference by pushing our quality, growing our producer base, building export markets and become part of the solution to ills of our country. Yes, we can do it!

Congratulations to you all – we can all be winners

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