Egypt’s House of Representatives has approved a presidential decree on joining the International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives. The presidential decree (no.560/2017) which was signed in Cairo on January 8 will entitle Egypt to full membership in the International Olive Council (IOC) once the government has deposited the instrument of ratification with the United Nations in New York.

Egypt first joined the IOC in 1964 but in 2017 its membership was revoked after it failed to sign an agreement on changes to standards of olive cultivation, production and trading.

Under the agreement, Egypt will benefit from financial grants to support the country’s olive cultivation, including a new initiative to plant one million olive trees as part of a project aimed at cultivating 1.5 million trees in the Western Desert.

The Egyptian olive oil industry has grown considerably in recent years and while some IOC members saw a drop in olive oil production in 2017, Egypt’s production increased by 21 percent. Demand for Egyptian olive oil also rose following the country’s currency flotation; an initiative which aimed to stimulate the country’s economy. The flotation gave producers greater export opportunities and helped to secure a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Hishem el Hossary, undersecretary of the committee of agriculture, irrigation, food security and animal health commented on the Egyptian government’s website that being a member of the International Olive Council had benefited Egypt’s agricultural and olive oil industry and the overall economy, and led to the improvement of the physical and chemical properties of Egyptian olive oil.

In April 2017 Palestine became the latest country to sign the IOC agreement joining Argentina, Algeria, European Union, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Montenegro, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey and Uruguay.

The current IOC agreement was re-drafted by the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Switzerland in 2015. It came into effect in January 2017 and is valid till December 2026. The new agreement was modified, condensed and made simpler to encourage more countries to join the IOC. The original agreement was set up in 1955 and was revised in 1963, 1979, 1986 and 2005.

The IOC aims to improve the chemical properties of olive oil, perfect production and improve harvesting techniques. It also provides technical assistance on export projects in order to overcome obstacles to international trade.

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