A third of EVOO in Croatia does't meet the Quality Standards

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Out of twenty extra virgin olive oils, seven tested at production facilities and thirteen taken from retail stores, which were controlled last year by the Agricultural Inspection, six did not pass the quality standards, reported the Agriculture Ministry. Of the nine oils produced in Croatia, four did not meet the necessary parameters of quality, authenticity and testing, reports Vecernji List on February 7, 2016.

Ivica Ljubenkov, president of the Croatian Association of Olive and Olive Oil Producers, says that the results of the inspection are the reason why more rigorous controls should be introduced. Even though the Agriculture Inspection took more than twice as many samples from the market as is the EU required minimum, Ljubenkov believes that systematic control system does not actually exist.

Anyone who wants to put “extra virgin” olive oil for sale should submit it to a quality testing, but that is usually done only by more serious producers who care about their reputation and want to sell their oils for more than one year. Many of the smaller producers, particularly those who sell their products on street markets, still sometimes try to cheat. However, according to Ljubenkov, small producers are not the main problem, since they may not even know what standards extra virgin olive oils must meet. The bigger problem are large retailers who must know what they are selling and who are making great profits, claims Ljubenkov.

Manufacturer of extra virgin olive oil Nikica Žampera from Žman on Dugi Otok claims he always submits his oils to a laboratory analysis. Last year, he produced only 150 litres instead of the usual 800 litres of oil, but the final product was high-quality and so he rightly set a high price for it – 150 kuna per litre. With a price below 120 kuna he would not be able to even cover his production costs, which are quite high due to climate change and various olive diseases. Even in industrial production, olive oil cannot be cheaper than 80 kuna, says Žampera, let alone 30 kuna which is how much certain retail chains ask for a litre of supposedly high-quality olive oil.

Croatian olive producers say there is enough domestic olive oil for now. But, it seems that some of the neighbouring countries are facing shortages. Italy was last year devastated by an olive disease. A few days ago, Italian tax inspection seized two million litres of fake olive oil, which was being sold as a premium Italian product, but was actually made from cheap Spanish and Greek oils. It is hard to say whether any such oil – with the EU label – could appear in the Croatian market. Ljubenkov says that, if the Agricultural Inspection were to issue two or three heavy fines to producers who cheat and would publicly release their names, which is never done in Croatia, then people would think twice before trying to cheat.

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