Exploring the olive oil value chain in Baena

Mar 30, 2022

The University of Cordoba, together with ADEGUA (the Association for the Development of the Guadajoz and East countryside of Córdoba), organised a field trip to the olive oil value chain to the municipality of Baena (Córdoba, Spain), which is one of the mountain reference region analysed by the MOVING’s project.

This visit was especially enriching for the students of the Erasmus Mundus Master on Rural Development, where Mar Delgado, coordinator of the MOVING project, is also the director of this Master at the University of Cordoba.

This rural experience, organised by Antonio Zafra, from ADEGUA, was designed to attract young people to the mountain areas, but at the same time to highlight the importance of the olive oil value chain for the economy of Cordoba. ADEGUA is a partner in the MOVING project and coordinates the work in the Betic systems reference region.

The visit focused on learning about the different business models that exist in the olive grove value chain. The field trip began with a visit to the ‘Cortijo de Suerte Alta’, located in Albendín, an example of a small family business with its own olive grove and oil mill, as well as a very well-defined and experienced organic production model, which has been in existence for more than 20 years.

In contrast to this small business model we can find large traders, such as the second stop of the trip, which was to the cooperative Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. This company groups together several thousand farmers and, therefore, its turnover is higher.

The last stop on the visit was to Oleícola El Tejar, also located in Baena, which is a second-grade agricultural cooperative whose objective is the integral use of olive oil derivatives, specifically the wet oil pomace resulting from this industry. This agro-energy is presented as one of the alternatives, together with compost, for making use of some of the main olive by-products obtained from the olive grove management process and oil production in the mills.

The three stops provided an overview of a complete value chain, consisting of the different ways of approaching the field, producing the oil in the mill for subsequent packaging, distribution and marketing and, finally, the use of the by-products resulting from this activity.

The Master’s students who took part in the visit were very positive about having had direct contact with the olive oil chain. “The three visits have been very interesting, because apart from being a totally new subject for me, it is impressive to see the magnitude of olive oil production in Spain and how this product is not only part of the identity of the place but also of its people“, explained Lucía.

Rafselia, another student, added: “These trips allow us to get to know in depth how the olive oil business is developed in Andalusia, especially. I have learned a lot because I come from Indonesia, where palm oil is the main commodity, and I used to work with oil palm companies because of the environmental and conservation aspect”.