Abdellatif Ghedira

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a per­son’s pro­fes­sional goals from a job appli­ca­tion, espe­cially one to lead an inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion. On Abdellatif Ghedira’s offi­cial sub­mis­sion for the exec­u­tive direc­tor posi­tion at the International Olive Council, some key words emerged:

  • Sustainable agri­cul­ture
  • Preserve the envi­ron­ment
  • Harmonization of inter­na­tional spec­i­fi­ca­tions
  • Monitoring of com­pli­ance with qual­ity stan­dards
  • International tech­ni­cal coop­er­a­tion
  • Sharing of knowl­edge
  • Fair Trade
  • Dialogue, trans­parency and respect

This for­ward-look­ing vision belongs to the olive oil sec­tor expert who suc­ceeded Jean-Louis Barjol dur­ing this year that coin­cides with the imple­men­ta­tion of the new International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives, which is expected to enter into force on January 1, 2017, and will remain oper­a­tional until December 31, 2026.

My goal is to respond bet­ter to the expec­ta­tions of the mem­ber coun­tries by strength­en­ing the capac­ity and resources of the IOC.- IOC Executive Director Abdellatif Ghedira

An agri­cul­tural engi­neer, who grad­u­ated from the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia and the National School of Rural Engineering, Water Resources and Forestry of Paris, Ghedira presided over the last twenty-three years, five boards and led eight struc­tures within the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture and was a spe­cial adviser to sev­eral min­is­ters of agri­cul­ture for sev­en­teen years.

He over­saw the imple­men­ta­tion of deci­sion-mak­ing infor­ma­tion sys­tems and coor­di­nated the devel­op­ment of sec­to­r­ial agri­cul­tural strate­gies and bud­getary plans and he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Agricultural Merit by the Tunisian Republic.

“From a young age,” reads Ghedira’s biog­ra­phy, “his win­ter hol­i­days were devoted to fam­ily gath­er­ings dur­ing the olive har­vest and he has been keen on pass­ing on to his chil­dren his attach­ment to the olive tree; a sym­bol of coop­er­a­tion, patience and pros­per­ity.”

A lit­tle more than a month after tak­ing his office, we talked with the exec­u­tive direc­tor about some issues in the olive oil sec­tor.

OOT: What aspects of olive oil sec­tor would you like to pro­mote or enhance with your direc­tion of the IOC for the com­ing years?

G: My pri­or­i­ties include estab­lish­ing a world obser­va­tory on the olive tree and its prod­ucts and devel­op­ing exchange net­works. I also want to see con­sumers in non-mem­ber coun­tries lobby their gov­ern­ments to join the IOC Agreement. I want them to know that IOC mem­ber­ship can bring noth­ing but advan­tages for them, firstly the guar­an­tee that their coun­try applies a trade stan­dard that ensures prod­uct qual­ity.

My pledge is to place the exper­tise and ded­i­ca­tion of the ver­sa­tile team of pro­fes­sion­als at the Executive Secretariat at the dis­posal of all the play­ers in the world olive indus­try in line with the instruc­tions and deci­sions of the Council of Members.

My goal is to respond bet­ter to the expec­ta­tions of the mem­ber coun­tries by strength­en­ing the capac­ity and resources of the IOC. I also intend to sup­port the work of dis­cus­sion groups on ques­tions of key impor­tance to the IOC and its future and to strengthen ties with the mem­ber coun­tries as well as with inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tions con­nected with IOC activ­i­ties.

OOT: Do you think is there a seg­ment of the pro­duc­tion sup­ply chain that should be upgraded?

G: Around 74 per­cent of the olive orchards in the world are farmed tra­di­tion­ally. Mechanization needs to be stepped up in these tra­di­tional orchards where har­vest­ing is the most costly cul­tural prac­tice.

OOT: How do you man­age the issue of bio­di­ver­sity and, on the other hand, the recent trend to apply inten­sive and super inten­sive grow­ing sys­tems and patented vari­eties?

G: Olive grow­ing is fun­da­men­tal to the Mediterranean region in eco­nomic, social and cul­tural terms and also as a fea­ture of the land­scape. It is there­fore very impor­tant to make the very most of tra­di­tional vari­eties, not just because they pro­duce a dis­tinc­tive prod­uct but also for the sake of sound man­age­ment of genetic resources. This is where con­ser­va­tion and research into genetic olive resources — and hence bio­di­ver­sity — step in.

The olive is a crop that is largely rain­fed, with­out irri­ga­tion. In this kind of olive farm­ing, which can be termed tra­di­tional, the olive trees have adapted over the cen­turies to the spe­cific soil and cli­matic aspects of each area. It is there­fore cru­cial to use and con­serve these vari­eties if olive cul­ti­va­tion is to be sus­tain­able and envi­ron­men­tally friendly.

As for super-inten­sive olive grow­ing, it is almost always prac­ticed in areas ide­ally suited to this kind of cul­ti­va­tion and accounts for no more than 4 per­cent of world olive acreage. There is, there­fore, room for the dif­fer­ent approaches to olive grow­ing — tra­di­tional, rain­fed or irri­gated, inten­sive or super-inten­sive — to develop.

In fact, they have to develop because olive oil still only rep­re­sents just over 3 per­cent of all the veg­etable oils pro­duced in the world. So, obvi­ously, there is scope for expand­ing this per­cent­age share.

OOT: Regarding the great devel­op­ment of olive grow­ing and the increase in qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oils pro­duced in recent years, do you have any com­ments about this move­ment toward high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion?

G: The IOC does not have spe­cific sta­tis­tics on the share of what are dubbed pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oils. I am nev­er­the­less delighted to see that a num­ber of pro­duc­ers are choos­ing to mar­ket top-class prod­uct because one of the prime objec­tives of the IOC is to encour­age the qual­ity enhance­ment of olive oils.



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