Voices 01/06/2009

"Oleologo". A new professional profile: the oil expert

The oil expert is a new profile even though it has always existed. The oil expert’s profession has always had clearly defined duties and still has today. With the name “oil expert (oleologo – coined by myself, to give a title to this professional role which has never received the right attention) it will finally be possible to create a profile to represent a valid support for the entire production chain.

For a few years now there have been specific university master courses in this discipline in order to guarantee that they have the suitable background. Professor Tullio Gregory, on his part, gladly took on this new word and put it in the Treccani linguistics bank for the Lessico Intellettuale Europeo.

This is a decisive step forward which helps to reinforce the university courses which have been established over the last few years. These master courses create the right prestige for such training. In addition to the University of Perugia, the University of Pisa is also active in this area. Riccardo Gucci, for example, director of the masters in olive growing and olive oil production technique in Pisa, is optimistic.

With these highly specialised courses – he says – everything is simplified, and this can already be seen in the oil industry. “The new oil experts are finding jobs immediately, even in strategic roles. Up until recently it was the olive extracting machinery industry that employed these experts.”

Certainly there are not many new oil experts at the moment, and it is a good thing to keep the numbers down. Now it is up to the olive-growing and olive oil production companies to employ oil experts on a full-time basis or at least as freelance consultants. If the success of wine companies is the result of the recognised professional expertise of winemakers the same thing can happen with extra virgin olive oil with oil experts. It is a question of accepting this transition, the importance and need for which has not yet been seen.

The production sector, especially companies still working on an agricultural scale, is not ready to make this step, it is still playing for time, as usual. The basic problem lies in the fact that olive-growing companies are too fragmented and in many cases badly structured and have survived up to now only thanks to financial contributions from the European Community.

Hence their mindset has remained that of simple farmers rather than real entrepreneurs. Consequently, the lack of a solid entrepreneurial spirit obviously leads to uncertain future prospects. In fact professional olive-growing companies represent a slight 4.3% of the total. And unfortunately the companies that have dominated and blackened the scene are the companies who do not look to the future and are unable to conceive a new vision of agriculture or are anyway so weak that they are unable to face the markets.

However, these are the companies, the self-consuming, hobby-scale companies, that have taken important economic resources away from companies needing help more than others to reorganise and renovate. This has caused enormous damage which cannot be repaired; unfortunately, damage which did not occur in Spain where financial help has been used properly to the full advantage of production.

di Luigi Caricato