Economist

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  • Topic: Olive oil, Olive, Greece
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  • Published : March 23, 2013
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1- Historical overview of Olive Oil industry In Spain

Olives have been an important agricultural product in Spain for a long time. In "The Olive Industry of Spain," published in the April 1936 edition of the journal Economic Geography, the author, William E. Bull, outlines the history of olive oil production in Spain up to that point. The Romans encouraged the planting of olive orchards after their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in 206 B.C. Although the olive industry decreased in production during the reign of the Visigoths, it became important again under Arab rule in the 8th century with new irrigation technology increasing the size of orchards. The promotion of the olive industry in the 19th century was advanced in 1884 when schools of olive cultivation were created. In 1898 Spain lost two of its colonies, Cuba and the Phillipines, resulting in a currency devalutation. At this time the government began to focus more attention on domestic issues and the Spanish olive oil industry began to gain importance on the world market. The following map shows that regions along the Mediterranean produced 99% of the world's olive in 1936, with particularly large areas of Spain devoted to olive production: Increased government intervention in the first decade of the 20th century in the form of 25 new laws regulating all aspects of olive oil production along with the appearance of finer grades of oil resulted in a huge increase in exports. By 1914, Spain had become one of the world’s greatest exporters of olive oil in the world. In 1924 the first "Oil Conference" was held in Madrid, resulting in the formation of the Federation of Olive Oil Exporters in Spain, which aimed to unify the nation's olive exports and increase business with foreign markets. In 1925 the National Association of Olive Growers was created in order "to protect the olive industry in all its technical, economic, and commercial aspects," [10]. The following map depicts olive production specifically in Spain in 1936, illustrating that production was mainly concentrated in the southern region of Andalucia with a smaller concentration in Catalunya, in northeastern Spain where Barcelona is located.In the conclusion of his article, Bull had several predictions for the future of Spain's olive oil production. He points out that The National Association of Olive Growers of Spain had not acquired sufficient political influence to legislate changes to the industry. He recommends: "the establishment of favorable trade agreements; the organization of the growers, setting definitive rules about quality of oils, mixing, processing, etc.; the organization of the exporters, lumping their efforts, their advertising facilities, and establishing uniform brands of superior qualities, and the prohibition of the importation of other oils which can more cheaply be replaced by native olive oil." Bull also points out that "There is no general indication that any of these ends will by accomplished very soon...however, there is considerable agitation upon the part of the more intelligent growers and exporters" .   Sadly, the Spanish Civil war broke out in July of 1936, just two months after this article was published. The resulting political, social, and economic upheaval disrupted the country greatly and much of the changes proposed by Bull would not be implemented for several decades. Bull's article illustrates how deeply engrained the olive industry is in various regions of Spain and how important olives and olive oil have been to the country's economy throughout history. Some of the recommendations that he made for Spain's olive industry concerning standards for the quality of olive oil have been realized through the regulation of the European Union's olive oil sector. "Over the centuries peoples of the Mediterranean Basin have dedicated much of their effort and wisdom to perfecting the art of living. The sea, for generations a reference of innumerable events, is the symbolic...
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