Azerbaijan Joins Olive Council

Investors believe joining the International Olive Council will improve quality and standards in Azerbaijan while facilitating access to international markets.
Old olive tree on Baku Seaside Boulevard, Azerbaijan
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 29, 2024 17:19 UTC

Enhanced access to inter­na­tional mar­kets, the stream­lined adop­tion of stan­dard pro­ce­dures, and the imple­men­ta­tion of best farm­ing prac­tices are a few rea­sons why the Azerbaijani olive oil sec­tor cel­e­brates the country’s acces­sion to the International Olive Council (IOC) as its 21st mem­ber.

According to Vahid Novruzov, the chief exec­u­tive of Agro Food Investments, one of the largest agri­cul­tural hold­ings in the coun­try, inter­est in olive farm­ing is grow­ing in Azerbaijan, with expec­ta­tions that the olive-grow­ing area could dou­ble to 15,000 hectares in the next few years.

Becoming a mem­ber of the IOC is a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone for us,” Novruzov told Olive Oil Times. It took more than two years to achieve this goal, which was made pos­si­ble by the sup­port from the Ministry of Agriculture. This mem­ber­ship is impor­tant as it aligns with the goals and aspi­ra­tions of the olive oil indus­try.”

See Also:The Growing Pains of Albania’s Ascendant Olive Oil Sector

Nestled between Russia and Iran and main­tain­ing close ties with neigh­bor­ing Georgia, the Azerbaijani gov­ern­ment and entre­pre­neurs have sig­nif­i­cantly invested in estab­lish­ing a mod­ern olive oil indus­try in recent years.

On behalf of the International Olive Council, I am thrilled to wel­come Azerbaijan as our newest mem­ber,” said Jaime Lillo, the IOC’s exec­u­tive direc­tor.

Azerbaijan, which has par­tic­i­pated as an observer coun­try at the IOC since 2021, has a rich his­tory and tra­di­tions that will surely con­tribute to the IOC’s mis­sion of pro­mot­ing the growth and sus­tain­abil­ity of olive cul­ti­va­tion and trade, pro­tect­ing con­sumers and enhanc­ing their knowl­edge about olive oil’s numer­ous health ben­e­fits,” he added.

George Svanidze, a Georgian entre­pre­neur and for­mer IOC pres­i­dent, con­firmed that the announce­ment is big news for the Azerbaijani olive oil sec­tor.

We have been in dis­cus­sions with the Azerbaijani gov­ern­ment for sev­eral years, exchang­ing vis­its in Spain and Georgia as olive pro­duc­tion in the coun­try showed excel­lent results,” he said.

Svanidze, whose com­pa­nies and asso­ci­ated farm­ers are also heav­ily invest­ing in estab­lish­ing new olive groves in Georgia, noted that Azerbaijan’s acces­sion to the IOC would facil­i­tate for­eign expert sup­port and qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Our Azerbaijani friends have seen how sig­nif­i­cant the IOC and its experts are with our olive expan­sion projects in Georgia,” he said. Thanks to that, we have planted 1.2 mil­lion olive trees here.”

Thanks to the IOC sup­port, we are also invest­ing in new tech­nolo­gies and machin­ery and start­ing work on new state-of-the-art olive oil mills,” Svanidze added.

Olive trees have been grow­ing for cen­turies in Azerbaijan, most notably on the Absheron Peninsula, where the favor­able cli­mate con­di­tions prompted the gov­ern­ment to sup­port fur­ther devel­op­ments.


Azerbaijan produced about 1,000 tons of olive oil in the 2023/24 crop year. (Photo: Grand Agro)

The goal of the lat­est efforts is to reclaim neglected land while also pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for local farm­ers.

In 2018, our com­pany, Grand Agro, pur­chased approx­i­mately 200 hectares of old olive groves not far from Baku,” Novruzov said. They were dilap­i­dated, in very poor shape, and left to die out. This was the rem­nant of what was once a large col­lec­tive farm.”

The com­pany worked to rein­state the old orchards and plant many new trees.

In the early years, we learned a lot about orchard man­age­ment, result­ing in about 30 per­cent of our orchards being tra­di­tional, with trees spaced up to five meters apart,” Novruzov said. The rest are inten­sive and super-inten­sive.”


With mod­ern irri­ga­tion and fer­til­iza­tion, we can now aim to har­vest up to seven or eight tons of olives per hectare,” he added.

The com­pany, the largest olive oil pro­ducer in the coun­try, pro­duced 600 tons of olive oil in 2023, more than 50 per­cent of Azerbaijan’s total pro­duc­tion.

We aim to pro­duce 1,000 tons in the near future,” Novruzov said. The demand is there, as we export to Spain, Israel, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.”

This olive crop expan­sion is not lim­ited to Azerbaijan and Georgia. There is an ongo­ing process across the entire region,” Svanidze said. We have been in dis­cus­sions with offi­cials in sev­eral coun­tries, and there is a high level of inter­est in sup­port­ing fur­ther invest­ments in olive oil.”

Georgia and Uzbekistan are already IOC mem­bers. Following Azerbaijan, we fore­see that the Kazakh gov­ern­men­t’s inter­est could lead to devel­op­ing closer ties with the International Olive Council,” he added. Looking ahead, Turkmenistan author­i­ties and farm­ers are also show­ing inter­est.”


Azerbaijan is part of a cohort of countries where cliamte change is expanding the possibilities of olive growing. (Photo: Grand Agro)

According to Svanidze, these coun­tries’ inter­est in devel­op­ing their olive indus­tries coin­cides with the urgent need for the global olive indus­try to adapt to the chang­ing cli­mate.

In a January inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Lillo said one of the IOC’s mis­sions is to expand olive cul­ti­va­tion glob­ally to mit­i­gate the impacts of extreme heat and drought in the Mediterranean on global olive oil sup­plies.

Even though coun­tries such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have cooler cli­mates than Mediterranean coun­tries, many olive vari­eties grow very well here,” Svanidze said.

Having new pro­duc­ing coun­tries is a strate­gic mis­sion in this sce­nario [of con­sec­u­tive poor har­vests fueled by high tem­per­a­tures and drought], which has caused sky­rock­et­ing prices for olive oil almost every­where,” he added.

Novruzov said that the sit­u­a­tion is chang­ing quickly in Azerbaijan. When we started, Azerbaijan had about 3,800 hectares of olive groves, most of which were in poor con­di­tion,” he said. Now we have more than 7,000 hectares of pro­duc­tive olive orchards.”

According to Svanidze, devel­op­ing a strong olive indus­try might also fos­ter bet­ter under­stand­ing among the involved coun­tries in a region where con­flicts and ten­sions have often hin­dered local efforts.

Birds bring olive tree branches across the whole world,” Svanidze said, allud­ing to the Biblical dove and the olive branch it brought to Noah as a peace offer­ing.

When peo­ple see the olive trees they have planted and real­ize how long they can live, it changes their mind­set,” he added. This is a sig­nif­i­cant moti­va­tion for peace and sta­bil­ity world­wide.”


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