Italy Fears EU’s Tunisian Olive Oil Ruling

Italian producers of olive oil have attacked an EU decision to remove customs duty on Tunisian olive oil, saying it threatens their livelihood and risks flooding Europe with fake oils. The recent decision will see customs duty removed from 70,000 tons of Tunisian olive oil imports over the next two years as part of a plan to help the North African country’s stricken economy. But the Italian farmer’s association Coldiretti said the decision to remove the duty – a tax normally applied to imports to defend home-grown industries, was bad news for consumers and producers of olive oil in Italy and beyond.

“It doesn’t help Tunisian producers, harms Italian ones and increases the risk that consumers will be exposed to fraud,” said Coldiretti president Roberto Moncalvo.

Coldiretti fears the cheaply imported Tunisian oil could easily be mixed with Italian oil and falsely sold as ‘Made in Italy’ for a premium price on the international market. This practice was shown to be widespread last year, during which Italian imports of Tunisian oil rose by 481 percent. The huge increase was spurred on by a poor harvest in Italy due to extreme weather conditions in 2014 and the spread of the pathogen Xyella, which has decimated ancient olive groves in southern Puglia. “The removal of taxes will only increase exports for Tunisian farmers by three percent. It’s difficult to see how that is enough to benefit its rural economies,” Moncalvo added.

Despite the producers’ distaste, the decision was approved by a large majority in Brussels.

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