March 03, 2004
At an Olive Day presentation, commission manager Jan Nelson reviewed the year's accomplishments of the canned black ripe olive promotional organization. The California Olive Committee (COC) is a marketing order organization so cannot act as a lobby group to procure funds directly for olive fly abatement. The cannery oriented California Olive Association performs those functions.
Committee funds assisted with much of the research done by the CDFA, USDA and UC extension research cited above. Money for the fly has also come or been routed through the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and UC specialty Crops Research Program.
This year prices at the cannery for the larger olives purchased directly by consumers were below prices ten years ago; less than $500/ton. "Limited" fruit which is used for sliced, chopped, and wedged olives generally sold to food service was going for $250/ton.
One of the biggest problems in the canned olive industry is the amount of unsold inventory from prior years. In spite of the fact that 4-5,000 acres of table olives were bulldozed last year, there is a year's worth of unsold inventory currently in storage.
Heavily subsidized foreign olives are making ever larger inroads into the US market. Last year for the first time, imported olives captured more of the sliced market than domestic.
The COC has many educational programs which get the nutrition message out. A grade school curriculum has been developed and has been very successful in the past. There is also a grade school programs designed to fight childhood obesity. Another program educates chefs in the use of ripe black olives. Diabetes recipe books in sizes suitable for supermarket checkout stands, an informative website, and health club posters round out the COC's promotional activities.
The separate "Buy California" program will hopefully increase sales of California olives and oil. The COC is also looking into legislation to get stronger chemicals registered for occasional use for serious outbreaks of the olive fly as is done in the EU.
Links for more information: California Olive Committee, California Olive Association - a part of the California League of Food Processors.