PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS Olive Oil
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (21:26): I rise this evening to support the motion on the Australian Standard for Olive and Olive-Pomace Oils in 2011. Extra virgin olive oil is the only mainstream edible oil which has not been chemically or physically refined and changed; it is just the natural juice of the olive.
Due to the natural process and great taste and health benefits it offers, extra virgin olive oil is highly sought by consumers. The Australian olive oil industry has grown substantially over the past decade, with more than $1 billion invested in regional Australia in groves and milling plants which have created thousands of jobs. Certainly olive groves and their produce are generating income for the Riverina.
Australians consume 45 million litres of olive oil a year, with consumption rising rapidly over the past 20 years to make Australia the highest consumers per capita outside the Mediterranean area. Australian growers have captured about 30 per cent of this market due to the outstanding quality of their extra virgin olive oil. However, most Australian olive growers are struggling to survive, despite producing world-class extra virgin olive oil, because they have watched the farm gate price more than halve over the past four years.
The Australian Olive Association's Paul Miller says producers cannot compete with cheap imports and are being forced to sell below the cost of production. Furthermore, these cheap imports are masquerading as the real thing and consumers are none the wiser. This is because imported oils have misleading labels which read 'pure', 'light' or 'extra light', although these names are illegal in most producing countries, including those in Europe. These deceptively-labelled products make up 45 per cent of the Australian retail market and sell for a similar price to extra virgin, in turn fooling Australian consumers, who believe they are purchasing extra virgin olive oil when the reality is that they are purchasing second-rate refined oil.
The reasons behind the widespread practice of misleading labelling of olive oils is twofold. Firstly, it is for financial gain. It can be very profitable to purchase only lower grade cheaper products, such as refined olive oil, and sell them as something else, in this case extra virgin olive oil. Secondly, there is an abundance of low-grade refined olive oil and a shortage of extra virgin. Europe produces 80 per cent of the world's olive oil but half of that production is not for human consumption and must be refined. It is then transported to countries such as Australia and labelled as 'extra light' or 'pure', or is even in some cases called 'extra virgin'.
In 2005 the Australian Olive Association published its own code of practice, which aims to guarantee the authenticity and quality of certified products and distinguish them from imported products. To be certified by the Australian Olive Association, products must be Australian and have undergone organoleptic testing for taste and for chemicals. Only after passing these tests can an Australian extra virgin olive oil become certified by the Australian Olive Association. Brands that are certified all carry a sticker, which helps make it easier for consumers to know they are purchasing authentic Australian extra virgin olive oil. In addition to ensuring the quality and authenticity of Australian extra virgin olive the code of practice—