OLIVE oil is a product ordinarily considered to be in plentiful supply in the Balearics but several companies in the Islands are studying the possibility of buying it from Italy to meet rising demand. Although traditionally manufactured here, the rising population and healthier eating habits encompassing “the Mediterranean diet” have meant that the region can't supply its own needs. Fernando de Francisco, managing director of the Balearic European Centre (CBE) refused to identify the firms who will be taking part in commercial agreements with Italy which have still not been finalised. The outcome of the negotiations will, however, ensure that there is a greater choice on the market of this essential product for Balearic consumers. Two weeks ago, the Balearic European Centre had organised for Spanish participation in an EU-sponsored “Business Opportunites and Services” forum which took place in the Italian city of Udine, near Venice. It was a key opportunity for producers and distributors in the agriculture and food supply sector of ten different European countries to get together to “see what they could do for one another.” Francisco signalled that the Balearic contingent came away from the conference with some very positive ideas and highlighted the fact that “for the first time, we have attended a forum of this kind where we had an opportunity to sell our produce, and not simply to buy from others”. The tentative explorations made at Udine will congeal over the coming months into concrete trade agreements. As well as olive oil, delicatessen items such as salami are also on the agenda for Balearic company buyers. Separately, local fertiliser manufacturers in Italy have gained an international reputation for quality; the Balearics will now be able to take advantage of competitive purchase rates. A total of 15 small to medium-sized Spanish companies took part in the Italian trade forum, eight of which were from the Balearics whilst the remainder were from the Canaries. All the firms are food product specialists.