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Inspirational idea: Setting up a cooperative for olives in Malta

A project to set up an olive growers' cooperative in Malta is all about increasing the visibility of olive growers.

Man mixing olives in a big box
© Jimmy Magro

At the end of 2022, a group of stakeholders from the olive sector in Malta teamed up to create a cooperative. Jimmy Magro explains: "Malta didn't have a cooperative dedicated to the olive sector. We wanted to bring olive growers together, gain wider recognition for Maltese extra virgin olive oil, set up new quality standards and improve the economic conditions for growers."

Jimmy says: "Although olive production in Malta is age-old, olives are still seen as an artisan product. Many people working in the sector are not full-time farmers and so the extent of olive production can sometimes be underestimated. They also have little opportunity to exchange know-how between growers." Jimmy and his colleagues therefore identified a need to create an umbrella organisation to speak on behalf of growers and to enable training and knowledge exchange.

Jimmy explains that there "is growing interest in olive oil production on the island, with some new entrants converting old vineyards to olive groves and planting new olive trees on empty land". Malta has more than 130 hectares under olive cultivation.

Jimmy is an olive grower. After seeing the issues at first hand, he decided to begin the process of creating the national cooperative. The first thing he did was to make a proposal on a number of Facebook Groups and the response was very positive. During the first public meeting, a provisional committee was established, composed of six olive growers. In order to establish the cooperative, the founders obtained support from local councils, which offered their main hall free of charge. They also found support from the Agri-Coop Trading Limited, which agreed to provide a discount to all purchases made by the olive grower cooperative members. The Olive Growers Cooperative Limited was officially registered on 27 February 2023.

"We already have 55 members registered with the cooperative. The aim is to have 50 new members every year," adds Jimmy. The cooperative is open to all olive growers irrespective of their quantity of olive trees. Each member must purchase at least one share in the cooperative with a nominal value of 50 euros. The role of the members is to support the cooperative in its activities and initiatives, as well as join in the marketing campaign that will be launched in 2024.

In the first three years, the cooperative’s main objectives are to: consolidate the olive sector in Malta; raise awareness about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil; and gain support from local authorities.

Training olive growers is an important part of their work, for example training on fertiliser use efficiency or the application of new technologies and digitalisation. The cooperative has also established the Malta extra virgin olive oil academy in order to implement a programme of educational activities and olive oil tasting sessions. The optimisation of the value chain and the involvement of the olive mills is also essential, especially in order to discuss and improve organisation between all parties. Jimmy explains: “For high quality olive oil, you need to press olives within 24 hours.” The cooperative will also collaborate with the University of Malta to make the most of their knowledge and encourage new people to study olive growing and improve techniques.

The cooperative has started work on the Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication certifications from the European Union for extra virgin olive oil. This can help increase product recognition and visibility in Malta and its export to other EU countries.

The cooperative has started awareness campaigns projects, such as amongst young people in Malta and for the development of rural/olive tourism. They have also contacted several olive cooperatives and producers’ groups in Italy in order to share knowledge and to create opportunities for exchange visits between olive growers.

Further information

Contact: Jimmy Magro - kpzmalta@gmail.com