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The olive oil mafia in Italy pocketed 5,000 million euros.


: 29 diciembre, 2011 | |

They buy oil in Spain, Tunisia and Greece to 25-50 cents and resell it as an Italian five times more expensive


The labels are written "Made in Italiy" and "extra virgin olive oil." But in reality most of the oil that is sold and exported in Italy is the result of mixtures of oils that come from Tunisia, Morocco, Greece and, especially, Spain. This is a market of great benefits, organized by what is already known in Italy as "agromafia" about standards in whose pockets they get each year 5,000 million euros.

This is a sophisticated business fraud, an illegal business, which is involved at least a dozen brands, some well known, whose names have not been made public because it is still a lot of research underway, which has been accessible newspaper La Repubblica, conducted by officers of Customs and Finance Guard anti-fraud detectives of the State Forestry Corps, in collaboration with Coldiretti, the main Italian agricultural employers' organization, with a million and a half members.

The new "masters" even squeeze oil and olives in the mills: Quite simply, the oil obtained by a transformation in its own way. That is, manipulate it, give it taste and smell. And above all, important. Buy foreign hands full in the Mediterranean basin, especially in Spain, and resell it in Italy and abroad. Of course, put the label "Made in Italy", and are given as the best producers in the world, because they make the best and richest yellow gold.

This is a fraud, something completely illegal, because the virgin oils and bottled extra virgin olive must respect, from the January 17, 2008, mandatory labeling rules, which must include the State or country outside the European Union where olives are grown and where the transformation has occurred. In short, an Italian oil can only be defined only when the olives are grown is removed in Italy and the transformation is performed in an Italian mill. In practice, 9 bottles of 10, that description to be included on the label is unreadable. 

The characters are so small, and printed in places almost hidden (and not always printed) that would be necessary to discover a magnifying glass.How does the businessA dozen labels or markings, some well known, have formed a bloc of companies-producers and distributors, allied to speculate and make a sophisticated commercial fraud, cheating consumers and racking up huge profits.

To do this, huge amounts of oil imported from Greece, Tunisia and, above all, Spain. In some cases, the oil companies they buy with which they are linked: the same pattern, the same group or family. Price and market control, "There is a power group that agri-food imports and making fortunes transformation is legal. Wastes so as to speak of ecomafia, it is time also for the oil, to talk about agromafia. We must begin to explore certain assets, "complains Stefano Masini, the responsible consumption of agricultural employers' organization Coldiretti.

The size of the business is extraordinary: 4 out of 5 bottles of extra virgin olive oil are officially the Italian flag, but contain foreign products, especially from Spain and Greece. In front of 250,000 tons of oil that Italy exports, the import figure is extraordinary: 470,000 tons (in 2010, the figure was 570,000 tonnes).This "agromafia» buy a kilo of Spanish oil, of excellent quality, 50 cents. Importers sell it to at least 2.50 or 3 euros. His great business they do with Spain, the world's largest producer of olive oil, with an average annual production of 700-000-800.000 tons, reaching 1,400,000 in some campaigns. Export, mainly to Italy, 300,000 tons are used, reaching 600,000 in some campaigns.

The same operation is performed with Tunisia, the first olive oil producer in Africa and second in the world by acreage. Producing a kilo of oil costs 10 cents in Tunisia, while in Italy rises to an average of 4-5 euros. In Tunisia, the Italian oil importer pays 20-23 cents a kilo. This oil is labeled in Italy and the wily Italian distributors at discounted prices place it between 2 and 4 euros, in large supermarkets, stores gas stations, etc..Some Italian regions are rich in olive groves and agri-food entanglements. "The oil, in relation to other agrifood products such as wine, is an extraordinarily simple. 

Today, the extra virgin olive oil has become a jungle. Result: The Italian companies do not squeeze anything. Stored oil imports. People buy it and not know it's a hoax, because the label is able to know what's in the bottle, "said Amedeo De Franceschi, deputy commander of the Forestry Corps fighting fraud.Disastrous resultsWhat today buying Italian oil? At the supermarket, the average price of oil from Spain, Italian extra virgin sold as is 3 euros. But in general, does not only not extra virgin, but sold mexclas of poor quality, as acknowledged by the president of theNational Union of Olive Oil Producers (Unaprol) Massimo Gargano: "There are many defective olive oils sold as extra virgin." Indeed, research conducted with 12 of the gears sold in supermarkets, analyzed in the laboratory, severe sensory defects detected in nearly half, as the taste of stale or MUFA. "An oil to be considered extra virgin should have no sensory defect," emphasizes Massimo Gargano.While fraud is colossal, as the ongoing investigation, so far few entanglements have come to light.

The most striking of recent years was known in 2008: Twenty companies from across Italy were involved and seized 2,300 tons of oil from Spain, Greece and Tunisia. Oil mixed with local and resold as "one hundred percent Italian product" not only in Italy but also abroad, even in part was shipped as "biological".Given the extraordinary size of this fraud, "the time has come for the government to act against agromafia with new instruments. 

These are not simple fraud of trade, but it is structured criminal organizations that control prices and have in hand an entire chain from production to distribution, "says Stefano Masini of Coldiretti.And the consumer how to behave to avoid this fraud so widespread? Marco Oreggia, author of "Flos Olei 2012", the bible of olive oils, ABC declares to be assured of good extra virgin olive oil must be paid at least 8 euros per liter. Only way we can avoid false Italialos oils, from Tunisian or Andalusian culture, mixed in bulk and sold on supermarket shelves with a beautiful Italian label.

ÁNGEL GÓMEZ FUENTES  / CORRESPONSAL EN ROMA 


Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
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