During its 26th extraordinary session in March 2016, the Council of Members of the International Olive Council selected senior officials which began in their new roles on July 1. Now the Executive Secretariat of the IOC includes two new deputy directors: Mustafa Sepetçi in charge of administrative and financial affairs and Jaime Lillo, who will oversee the technical, economic and promotional units. After the first month of work, we meet them to talk about their goals and expectations.
“I feel lucky to work for the IOC and the olive sector and I am glad to deal with the healthiest and most precious product in the world,” said Mustafa Sepetçi, 41, who said he is keen to revitalize the administrative and financial structure of the IOC and ensure the optimal use of the organisation’s resources.
He holds a degree in political sciences from the University of Ankara, after which he specialized in international relations obtaining an M.A. at the London Metropolitan University.
Sepetçi has spent a long time working as an internal auditor in government administration, particularly in connection with the provincial restructuring carried out by the Ministry of Customs and Trade.
As the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs at the Ministry of Customs and Trade since 2011, Sepetçi represented Turkey at the IOC and was responsible for supervising the recognition of olive oil testing laboratories and the creation of the third international collection of olive germ plasm in collaboration with the IOC.
In this capacity, he participated actively in the negotiation of the International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives in 2015. As a regular participant in international meetings at the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and the FAO, Sepetçi was put forward by Turkey for the post of deputy director and was chosen by the IOC member countries at the end of a selection process.
The key area of his new role is the strengthening of the central position of the IOC in the olive oil and table olive sector. “Increasing the visibility and recognition of the IOC will provide access to accurate information and effective solutions to the problems encountered in the olive world,” said the new deputy director. “It will also provide a tool for common standardization activities, as the IOC should be a meeting point for all operators in the sector.” His intention is that the IOC will be restructured in such a way as to enable it to play a role as a world reference for documentation and information.
Sepetçi is also responsible for IOC budget management and said he is determined to contribute his utmost to achieving the objectives of the International Agreement and ensuring a balanced budget to make that possible.
Moreover, his aim is to improve the information system in order to provide traceability, easy and rapid access and transparency, and respond better to the expectations of the member countries and the sector. “In today’s world, information technology is taking up more space in our lives day by day,” he remarked. “This trend is likely to continue and pick up speed in the future. We are eager to develop an information system that will reinforce the IOC’s capacities and expertise.”
Deputy Director Jaime Lillo told Olive Oil Times, “My goal is to work together with the team for a new phase of the IOC and give it a fresh impetus under the new Agreement.”
Lillo, 42, is an agricultural engineer with a degree from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He has worked at the Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU and as special advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture.
As a former official of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, he has also worked closely with various NGOs on a number of development and cooperation projects.
Lillo is a regular at international meetings of the United Nations, FAO, WTO and OECD. In addition to the management of the IOC technical portfolio, which includes R&D and environment, training and specific operations and olive oil chemistry and standardization, the new deputy director, who was nominated by Spain for the role, will monitor the olive oil consumption promotion campaigns and economic research carried out by the IOC, in addition to the planned launch of a world olive observatory.
The executive director has also tasked him with coordinating the World Olive Day, held every year on November 26, which is planned to be celebrated by member countries with grant funding from the IOC.
“I will operate in order to achieve the objectives included in the Agreement: to get closer to consumers, to enhance harmonization of the standard and facilitate the access of new countries to the IOC.”
He believes that the role of olive trees against climate change is very important, and this is also an issue that the IOC will submit to the COP22 in November (22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC).
Lillo, who has seen in recent years the great evolution of Spanish olive oil, revealed some personal details about his passion for extra virgin olive oil that began when he was a child: “I went to visit my uncle in Jaén who had an olive grove, and we tasted the new extra virgin olive oil that had just come out of the mill. Nowadays, in the morning I usually have bread with extra virgin olive oil and tomato or honey and I always want to be sure to have various oils from different varieties to use them according to the food.”