`Q&A With IOC Director Jean-Louis Barjol - Olive Oil Times

Q&A With IOC Director Jean-Louis Barjol

Apr. 7, 2011
Alice Alech

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International Olive Council exec­u­tive direc­tor Jean-Louis Barjol (file photo)

Jean-Louis Barjol is the newly appointed exec­u­tive direc­tor of the International Olive Council in Madrid. For the past two years, he served as deputy direc­tor for the IOC in the Administrative and Financial, and the Survey and Assessment divisions.

Before join­ing IOC, Barjol was the direc­tor gen­eral of the Comité Européen des Fabricants de Sucre (CEFS) known as the European Committee of Sugar Manufacturers.

He will head this inter­na­tional, inter­gov­ern­men­tal body until December 2014 look­ing at pol­icy-mak­ing issues and fac­ing the chal­lenge of bring­ing olive pro­duc­ing coun­tries to work more effec­tively together.

Barjol holds a Master’s degree in agri­cul­tural eco­nom­ics from the Institut National Agronomique de Paris and was knighted Chevalier du Mérite Agricole Français for his ser­vices in Spain between 1995 and 1998.

He is mar­ried with two chil­dren. He enjoys read­ing his­tory books; he feels we can learn much by study­ing the trends, cus­toms and habits of past generations.

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We spoke with Barjol by telephone.

Mr. Barjol, your first offi­cial visit was to the United States where you attended the North American Olive Oil Association’s (NAOOA) mid-year meet­ing. What are IOC’s plans to pro­mote olive oil there? Is this a pri­or­ity mar­ket for IOC?

The US is the world’s largest mar­ket for imports of olive oil if you con­sider the EU as one mar­ket and ignore intra-EU trade.

For me, devel­op­ing this mar­ket is a top pri­or­ity. We hope to begin a cam­paign in July this year for the pro­mo­tion of olive oil and table olives in North America for 2011 and 2012.

Invitations to ten­ders will be sent out as early as April this year and an agency will be selected for the launch in the United States and Canada. IOC plans to spend 1.2 mil­lion euros on the project.

Australia is con­sid­er­ing the adop­tion of stan­dards that depart from IOC. Is this a con­cern for you? Do you find this worrying?

It’s wor­ry­ing for them, not for us. Australia does not belong to the IOC. For rea­sons I don’t under­stand, they have never wanted to become a mem­ber. They use our lab­o­ra­to­ries every year; they attend our meet­ings and they come to be rec­og­nized by IOC for their com­pe­tence in chem­i­cal and sen­sory characteristics.

I say it’s wor­ry­ing for them because after all, 98 per­cent of the world’s export comes from mem­bers of IOC.

Why do you think this is happening? 

I’m not sure. Australians are quite demand­ing but in this spe­cific case they are not respect­ing IOC and Codex stan­dards; there are quite a few dis­crep­an­cies which seem to favor home pro­duc­ers more than importers.

Could you give me an exam­ple of one discrepancy?

The Australian limit for campes­terol of 4.8 per­cent is higher than the IOC and Codex stan­dard which fixes a limit of 4 percent.

For us, the qual­ity of olive oil is a key factor.

Can you tell me about the sit­u­a­tion in India?

Promotion cam­paigns were car­ried out in India by IOC but the results have been dis­ap­point­ing. I can’t com­mit too much here as I have only just taken on my new role, but India has been a much slower mar­ket to develop olive oil con­sump­tion com­pared to China where the mar­ket is devel­op­ing very quickly. But things can evolve.

You will be going to China soon. What do you plan to do dur­ing your visit?

I will be in Shanghai for the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 7th International Exhibition of Olive Oil and Edible Oils start­ing on the 18th of April. I will meet with mem­bers of the agri­cul­tural min­istry as well as the press, and IOC will have a stand (at the exhibition).

Can you com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion in Spain at the moment regard­ing the low prices of olive oil?

This is indeed a pre­oc­cu­py­ing sit­u­a­tion. Studies car­ried out by the Spanish Olive Oil Agency have shown that over the years the added value in the olive oil pro­duc­tion chain has been very low; hardly 2.5 per­cent. Also, because of Spain’s impor­tant posi­tion in world pro­duc­tion, the price of olive oil set in Spain will influ­ence the price of olive oil in other export­ing countries.

Economically, this sit­u­a­tion can­not be main­tained; cer­tainly, some of the planned invest­ments will have to be put on hold and we will stop har­vest­ing a cer­tain num­ber of olives. This will then cause a reduc­tion in pro­duc­tion in rela­tion to demand. The result would be the risk of hav­ing a sud­den surge of price increase.

We’re enter­ing a kind of yo- yo phase where we would have a lack of pro­duc­tion gen­er­at­ing high prices for a rel­a­tively long period, as we would need to plant new crops and allow enough time for har­vest­ing. This would indeed have an effect on all the export­ing countries.

There have been recent reports of fraud. What is the cause?

I’d like to clar­ify a point that is not always under­stood. IOC is an inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion with very high chem­i­cal and sen­sory stan­dards. The mem­ber coun­tries belong­ing to our orga­ni­za­tion have under­taken to respect these stan­dards for the prod­ucts they export and import.

It is impor­tant to know two things when talk­ing about the qual­ity of olive oil. The use­ful life cycle and con­di­tions of stor­age, and when the analy­ses are car­ried out

The IOC spec­i­fies that analy­ses must be done at the time of inter­na­tional trad­ing; this is vital. Light, heat and bad stor­age will dete­ri­o­rate the qual­ity of olive oil. We must respect this prod­uct; store it away from light, from heat so as to appre­ci­ate all its fine qualities.

Is your new role at IOC very dif­fer­ent from that of CEFS?

Yes, very dif­fer­ent; by the size of the indus­try and the prod­uct. Olive oil is a much more sophis­ti­cated prod­uct than sugar. Here at IOC, I am apply­ing my expe­ri­ence of work­ing in the pub­lic sec­tor and in an agro-indus­try federation.

Do you read Olive Oil Times?

Yes, I do; I find it dynamic, I like it.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Barjol.

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