20 Sep

Interview of V N Dalmia, President of the India Olive Association

Over the next four years olive oil consumption in India is expected to increase nine-fold to 42,000 tonne. Increasing awareness of health issues is the primary driver of this demand, as olive oil is seen as a healthier cooking medium.

Is olive oil becoming more acceptable in India?
Firstly, it should be noted that olive oil is not as expensive as perceived since it is used in 1/3rd the quantity of other oils. With increased international exposure, we Indians are becoming more aware of the benefits of olive oil as an edible oil. Historically, we knew it as a massage oil.

Our aim is to promote olive oil for Indian cooking and table olives as a healthy snack so that a larger segment of our population derives health benefits. Olive oil and table olives are highest in mono-unsaturated fat and antioxidants, which reduce cholesterol, heart disease and hypertension, prevent cancer and increase life expectancy.

Olives are high in Vitamin E. As per WHO, heart disease will be the single greatest killer in India by 2015. India already ranks No 1 in cardiac patients. Olive oil use is capable of radical improvements in the nation’s health.

How is the market for olive oil and table olives in India growing?
The edible olive oil market in India is growing at an impressive rate of 90% and is projected to grow at 150% by the year 2010. Imports of olive oil are expected to rise from 2,300 tonnes in 2007-08 to 4,500 tonne in 2008-09. China’s olive oil market is already 20,000 tonnes.

In the next four years, a nine-fold increase is expected in our olive oil consumption which is expected to be 42,000 tonne in FY 2012. Table olive consumption too has noticed rapid growth with an increase from 245 tonnes in 2005-06 to 288 tonnes in 2006-07. The 2008-09 estimate is 390 tonnes rising to 935 tonnes in 2010-11, representing a growth rate of 55%.

Standardisation is an issue. What should be done to ensure that quality benchmarks are met?
Immediately, the health ministry needs to amend the specifications and definitions for olive oil under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA) in order to synchronise Indian standards with those of International Olive Council (IOC), Spain — an UNDP-promoted inter-governmental organisation which oversees world trade.

Indian definitions are quite out-of-date. Once amendments are notified, an inspection and enforcement mechanism will need to be established quickly to make sure that products are abiding by the new specifications and labelling various grades of olive oil accurately. This is especially important as some firms have begun to bottle in India and domestic production will commence in a few years.

What are the prospects for cultivate olive trees in the country?
Rajasthan has implemented a pilot olive cultivation project of over 250 hectares. The state has provided land and capital, an Israeli firm the technical expertise and an Indian firm, some capital. Production can be expected in 2012. Punjab has also announced a similar project with Israel over 300 hectares.

An Indian company, in a joint venture with a Spanish company, has announced a project over 300 hectares in Himachal. As India produces increasingly good quality grapes for wine, there is no reason why high quality olives cannot be produced as both require similar soil, climatic conditions and rain-fall.

The Nashik Valley in Maharashtra and the Nandi Hills near Bangalore can be ideal for olive cultivation as they are similar in climate to the Mediterranean region. The government should launch schemes to introduce and support olive cultivation. State governments too should encourage olive cultivation schemes by providing land and educating farmers.

Since India is considered a potentially huge market, what needs to be done to realise this potential?
We will continue to promote the consumption of table olives and olive oil and support the expansion of the market and domestic production. Our focus is to make people use olive oil for Indian cooking. The target is to have two million households consuming olive oil by the year 2010. It is helpful that the IOC last year commenced a three-year promotional campaign in India and plans to spend 750,000 this year. [Source] Click here

[Source] Click here

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