FAO Headquarters, Rome

The Italian authorities hosted the 105th session of the International Olive Council (IOC) at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome on May 23rd, 24th and 25th.

The Italian Deputy Minister of Agriculture inaugurated the session’s activities. In attendance were representatives from the presiding nation of Algeria, in addition to delegates from most of the IOC’s member countries, including Argentina, Iran, Turkey and Uruguay.

Representatives of the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) and the Japan Oilseed Processors Association (JOPA) also attended the 105th session in an observatory role due to their close work with the IOC.

Following the inauguration, the deputy minister of agricultural policy, Andrea Olivero, gave welcoming and opening remarks. Upon his conclusion, Loriana Abbruzzetti, chairperson of the Pandolea Association, presented her organization’s work. Abbruzzetti took the opportunity to entreaty the IOC to develop an association of female olive oil producers to aid in spreading further information, awareness and promotion in producer countries.

The IOC’s various specialized committees, comprised of Administrative and Financial Affairs, Economic and Promotion, and Chemistry and Standardization conducted meetings during the session.

The Administrative and Financial Affairs Committee convened with the Council of Members to assess the status of “ratifications, acceptances, approvals and provisional applications or accession to the International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives (2015), which, according to a statement provided by the IOC “is aimed at facilitating the participation of importer countries.”

While Jordan, Palestine and Tunisia are the only participants that have currently achieved ratification based on records kept by the United Nations, the committee did note that Turkey and Egypt were finalizing the process and that the consumer countries of Brazil, China, and Japan have all shown interest in becoming members of the IOC.

Regarding Economics and Promotion, Mustafa Septici and Jaime Lillo, members of the IOC’s executive secretariat, provided the Council of Members with updated information on “production, consumption and exports trends” prevalent to the industry over the past few years.

The executive secretariat also focused on the international study on consumer behavior, the harmonization of customs codes for main olive oil categories, and the IOC’s market newsletter and website. The Council of Members were informed of various promotional efforts taking place across the globe, including a campaign in Japan, which began in July 2015.

The Japanese campaign will continue into 2017 subject to budgetary availability. Additionally, the Council discussed the recent media tour for Japanese journalists in Turkey and the organization of activities related to the celebration of World Olive Day. Grants for member nations’ celebration of the holiday will be awarded on November 26, 2017.

Following the success of the Japanese campaign, members of the Executive Secretariat including the deputy executive director for technical, promotion and economic affairs, the head of chemistry and standard setting unit and the head of the promotion unit will take advantage of their trip to New York for the annual meeting of the North American Olive Oil Association by meeting with members of the American administration in Washington D.C. and olive oil producers in California.

These discussions are intended to “strengthen the collaboration between the US olive industry and the IOC with a view to launching a promotion campaign of olive oil and table olive consumption,” according to a statement provided to Olive Oil Times by the IOC.

In their discussions of olive oil chemistry and standardization, the Council noted activities that have been carried out since the 104th session in testing methods, the organization of the 17th edition of the IOC Mario Solinas Quality Award 2017, harmonizing standards, and quality control measures for olive oils and olive-pomace oils sold on import.

As Members were informed of the development of collaborative standardization methods amongst testing laboratories and tasting panels, they also took note of the recently implemented recognition system for laboratories. The system incorporates three options, including type A: Quality, type B: Purity, and type C: Contaminants, and opens the award of recognitions to all countries.

Turning to olive growing, olive oil technology and environmental concerns, Members examined progress on several projects, particularly recent studies exploring Xyllela fastidiosa, completed with the collaboration of CIHEAM.

Using this information, the Council proposed a seminar on the disease, which first appeared in the Mediterranean in 2013 when the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization claims it began infecting olive groves in Puglia, Italy.

Furthermore, the Council discussed the creation of pilot demonstration nurseries meant to enhance genetic olive resources and another project to explore the environmental value that olive growing can provide the world. Members also agreed to continue providing numerous PhD scholarships.

On Wednesday, May 24th, delegates and the Executive Secretariat attended a dinner organized by the new Italian group Filiera Olivicola Olearia Italiana (FOOI). The organization brings together the predominant olive oil and table olive industry groups that are based in Italy.

The Council of Members’ plenary sitting took place on May 25th and continued into May 26th. During the sitting, the Council adopted ten decisions that were submitted by the Executive Secretariat.

After the opening ceremony, in which two representatives for Italian and UN agricultural officials highlighted the IOC’s importance within the olive industry, the chairperson of JOPA signed the IOC Agreement for quality control of products sold on import markets. During the session, the Members reaffirmed their commitment to various points of interest discussed throughout the session, such as studies on Xylella fastidiosa, harmonization of codes and increased promotion to potential consumers worldwide.

The plenary sitting concluded with a declaration on the recognition of training centers on olive growing and olive oil.

On Saturday, May 27th, delegations attended a technical visit to the oil mills in Italy’s Sabine region. The session concluded as the Executive Secretariat thanked the Italian authorities for graciously hosting, and thanked the FAO and the FOOI for welcoming the Members and organizing the meetings.

Moving forward, the IOC recently released a vacancy notice for openings in the posts of head of olive growing, Olive Oil Technology and Environment unit, internal comptroller and head of the Observatory and Information Systems department within the executive secretariat.

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