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Cargill signs joint venture for Spanish olive oil

By Clarisse Douaud , 17-Oct-2007

Agri-business giant Cargill has engaged in a joint venture with Spain's largest olive oil producer, Hojiblanca, to source, trade and supply customers worldwide with private label and bulk olive oil.

The agreement will be put into effect "once we have the paperwork done, but soon", Hojiblanca spokesperson Esteban Carneros told Foodnavigator. The initiative is likely to cause ripples in the olive oil market - Hojiblanca claims to be the world's largest olive oil producer, while Cargill's global vegetable oil network is well-established. Carneros said the global demand for olive oil has been growing and is expected to still increase significantly and the joint venture will focus on meeting this need. The joint venture will strengthen Cargill's involvement in high premium olive oil, and is set to complement the company's existing oil offering to customers worldwide that in volume terms has focused primarily on sunflower, rapeseed, soya, corn and palm. Hojiblanca is a cooperative of olive oil producers in the southern region of Andalucia, producing an annual average of 90,000 tonnes of crude olive oil yearly, with 49 oil mills and 28,000 farmers. It is market leader in Spain for extra virgin olive oil. The country as a whole is said to produce approximately 30 per cent of the world's olive oil supply. Together with Italy, Turkey, and Greece, it accounts for most of the world's production. Cargill currently bottles olive oil at plants in Spain, Belgium and France. The company also distributes to customers across Europe, Asia and the Americas. "The JV will offer private label customers in Spain and worldwide the opportunity to retail bespoke products, tailor-made to their requirements," said José Moreno, president of Hojiblanca. Olive oil is one of the staples of the famed Mediterranean diet, which has been lauded to consumers thanks to evidence linking the diet to lower incidence of heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancers. Other foods in this diet are fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and moderated amounts of red wine. Cargill has approximately 1,200 employees in Spain and is active in grain and oilseed trading, oilseed crushing and refining, among other food ingredient industries. In 2006 the agribusiness bought Degussa's food ingredients business in the country.

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