This year’s Beyond Extra Virgin International Congress, which starts Wednesday in Córdoba, is being organized by Spain’s Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español. The Interprofessional is a non-profit official organization which represents all members of Spain’s olive oil sector. Here its director, Teresa Pérez, talks about the importance of the congress and what to expect.

What is different about Beyond Extra Virgin this year?

Above all we’re talking about a more ambitious congress. Not only will there be more presenters and speakers than at previous editions, they’ll be coming from more countries. And in terms of new aspects, I should also highlight that the Mediterranean diet will also play a big role at this Congress. That’s natural given that it was inscribed in UNESCO’S list of Intangible Cultural Heritage last year. As for other things, obviously there is the focus on extremely high quality extra virgin olive oil, its production, its market positioning and culinary uses. Spain will share some of its innovations in this field.

What prompted the Interprofessional to organize Beyond Extra Virgin in 2011?

In 2009, the Interprofessional was represented in the edition held in California, which was the first to have a real international flavor. Last year, in Verona, the Spanish contingent played a prominent role. After that we got involved in a major way in this event, taking on its organization for 2011.

What kind of people do you expect to attend?

People from a variety of backgrounds will be getting together in Córdoba. Of course the production sector will be well-represented, after all, it is the driver of quality. Thanks to its participation, we’ll be able to take a close look at the considerable experience of producers not only from various regions of Spain but from other countries. Also, technical experts will help us learn more about the characteristics of premium oils, and scientists, participating as presenters and in panel discussions, will serve as a bridge between projects in the lab and in the field, and producers’ needs .

People from the world of cuisine will also play a big role. Internationally renowned chefs will demonstrate how these olive oils are an important source of added value in the realm of gastronomy. And also participating will be organizations and authorities that have been important supporters of the emphasis on quality, which is so important for the olive oil sector worldwide.

What are some of the challenges facing the sector?

In terms of this conference, the big challenge is to enhance the prestige and value of excellence in production and in these extra virgin olive oils themselves. All in all, our goal is to transmit to consumers EVOO’s vast benefits–in terms of nutrition, health and taste–while offering them an extremely high quality product.

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