31 May 2013. Delegates from the world’s main producers and exporters of olives and olive oil returned home yesterday after four busy days of meetings in Madrid.
Representatives from the 17-Member International Olive Council assembled at IOC headquarters for discussions on a spectrum of business spread over three separate meetings between 27 and 30 May.
100th session wraps up
The first day was set aside for the close of the 100th session of the Organisation, pending since November of last year. The Council of Members adopted the finalised action plans and budget for 2013. A raft of decisions was taken, including technical measures of relevance to industry. Notably, wax, ethyl ester, stigmastadiene and myristic acid limits have been amended in the IOC trade standard; three decision trees have been passed to guarantee the authenticity of oils with campesterol and delta-7-stigmastenol values outside the IOC limits. Three methods of analysis were also adopted, two definitively – detection of extraneous oils and determination of sterols and triterpene dialcohols – and one provisionally for the determination of alkyl esters and waxes using 3 grams of silica. A revision of the IOC method for the organoleptic assessment of virgin olive oil was also approved. All these documents will be posted very shortly in the Chemistry section of this website.
On a more general note, the Council of Members discussed the prospects of enlarging the ranks of the IOC. Uruguay is nearing completion of the formalities to become a very welcome addition to the IOC community. Palestine has submitted a membership application too.
Council moves back into gear for 2013 and 2014
The next two days were allotted for the 20th extraordinary session. Four specialist committees – Economic, Promotion, Technical and Financial – heard reports from the Executive Secretariat. Broad-ranging discussions took place, largely on market trends, prices and data for olives and olive oils (world olive oil and table olive balances), completed and scheduled economic, technical and promotional activities for 2013, proposed action plans and budgets for 2014 and internal business.
In the economic area, the calendar for the second half of the year includes meetings of three working groups: the existing IOC statistics group, a new group on the Harmonised System customs headings for olive oils and a third steering group on the planned survey of the production costs of oil-olives in the member countries.
In the chemistry area, the IOC group of chemists is due to meet at the end of June and plans are also afoot for a meeting of a quality strategy working group. Activities in the coming months will be focused on the continuing harmonisation of olive oil and table olive standards and development of testing methods, the build-up of the IOC olive oil composition database and the laboratory proficiency check tests for annual IOC recognition, to mention just a few. In the immediate future, the IOC will be hosting an important seminar on olive oil authentification co-organised with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and the Geel Joint Research Centre.
On the R & D front, the world olive collection in Marrakech will shipping over 100 of the varieties housed in its repository to the newly established world collection in Izmir, Turkey. In tandem, the four latest additions to the RESGEN genetic olive resources project (Albania, Argentina, Turkey and Montenegro) will be transferring their native varieties to these two international collections. The irrigation management project will continue underway and the joint IOC/Common Fund for Commodities project for the creation of pilot olive nurseries will get off the ground with the Institut de l’Olivier (Tunisia) as the project executing agency.
Technical assistance activities will include the award of scholarships for the expert course on virgin olive oil tasting at the University of Jaén in Spain as well as for an international seminar on new olive oil marketing strategies co-organised by the IOC and Zaragoza’s Mediterranean Agronomic Institute (IAMZ). A call for grant applications for technical assistance activities will shortly be released and the Executive Secretariat intends to arrange an international seminar to make grant-funding management easier for both the IOC and grant awardees.
On the promotional side, the promotion campaign in Brazil will get off the ground and moves will continue to convert the IOC magazine OLIVAE into a new scientific journal. The Executive Secretariat will also be publishing a call for grant applications for promotional initiatives very soon.
Building a vision for the future
The meeting on 30 May was the first of the working group created to discuss the blueprint for the IOC of the future as the current International Agreement approaches expiry on 31 December 2014. A string of meetings will follow – the next one this August – to work out how to adapt the Agreement and the Organisation to emerging industry trends and the evolving needs of Members.