The first petition to ask the U.S. Department of Foreign Trade (USTR) to exclude European olive oil from the application of duties has been launched. According to Italian farmers’ association Coldiretti the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) has launched the ‘Do not tax our health’ initiative which can be signed online after the official start of the U.S. government procedure to trigger new commercial duties. According to the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the public stakeholders consultation will end on May 28.
OLIVE OIL AND THE ADVANTAGES OF MEDITERRANEAN DIET
The petition points out that olive oil is one of the healthiest foods in the world so much so that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) itself has recognized it as a food beneficial to cardiovascular health. But its benefits go far beyond this. The dietary guidelines of the USDA for Americans recommend the Mediterranean diet, of which olive oil is a major component, as it would save $20 billion in treatment for many illnesses in addition to heart disease, including cancer, diabetes and dementia.
The United States consumes about 300,000 tons of olive oil per year. But it produced only 10,000 tons in the period 2018-19, so that duties on European products would ‘punish’ American consumers. In fact they will have to pay higher prices or switch to less healthy, or unhealthy, cheaper fats.
DUTIES AND ITALIAN FOOD AND BEVERAGE PRODUCTS: THE BLACK LIST
The black list of European F&B products to be hit by duties has a total amount of 11 billion dollars. In addition to olive oil it includes wines such as Prosecco and Marsala, cheeses, citrus fruits, grapes, jams, fruit juices, water and spirits. According to Coldiretti Donald Trump targeted about half of Made in Italy food and beverage products exported to the USA. In 2018, total Italy’s F&B exports reached a record value of 4.2 billion (+2%).
The United States is the major exports market for Made in Italy food products outside the EU, and the third market all over the world after Germany and France. Given an exports value of 1.5 billion euros in 2018, the Italian product most at risk from the introduction of duties is wine. Other products in danger are olive oil – whose exports in 2018 were equal to 436 million – and cheeses which were worth 273 million. This is the case of Pecorino Romano, for which the USA represents about two thirds of total exports. For Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, the USA is the second top importing market after Germany.