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A recent trade mission to Canada took premium olive oil from six producers in a bid to snare export opportunities in the gourmet sector.

South Australian Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Rory McEwen led a delegation to Canada at the end of March to show off the best of the State’s wine and food.

Olives SA president Lisa Rowntree accompanied the group, representing the State’s olive manufacturers keen to break into the North American market.

“Olive oil has become a staple in most Canadian households,” Rowntree said.

“But it is not an easy category to establish there, as there is a lot of competition from Italian, Spanish, French and Greek companies.

“The trade mission was a great opportunity to get South Australian olive products out there and known.

“This was going to be mainly a wine industry mission, but the Minister wanted to broaden its scope so Primary Industries and Resources SA invited me to attend on behalf of the olive industry.”

During the visit, McEwen hosted a wine master class and a showcase dinner of SA food and wines in Winnipeg and took part in events at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, including a South Australian-themed lunch. Rowntree attended the delegation events in both cities, giving a talk on the Australian olive industry at the Winnipeg master class.

“Even though the people attending the class were there to learn about wines, they were very interested to hear about the oils and the olive industry in Australia,” she said.

“Most were unaware that Australia even produced olive oil, which suggests a lot more promotion needs to be done to raise awareness of our products.”

With assistance from Austrade Canada, Rowntree visited specialist gourmet retailers in Winnipeg and Vancouver, as well as attending SIAL Montreal, the North American Food Marketplace. SIAL is held every two years and gives buyers, importers, retailers and restaurateurs the chance to check out the latest gourmet products. Before the visit, Olives SA approached about 30 local producers, ultimately choosing six who could supply reasonable amounts of oil and had good product information.

Minenko Olives, Hickory’s Run, Tatiara Olive Grove, The Living Tree, Pendleton Estate and OzOlio all sent samples of their oils to Canada, with products including organic and lemon extra virgin olive oils and novel packaging such as two-litre casks and shaped ceramic bottles. She said the trip had been quite successful, allowing her to make contacts and bring back information that could help