Sunday, June 27, 2010

Moroccan Olives - all you need to know!

The fact that the International Olive Oil Council met for four days in Essaouira may not sound important to most people. Yet, consider for a moment the value of olives to the Moroccan economy. According to the Moroccan newspaper L’Economiste, the olive industry already occupies roughly 700,000 hectares of Moroccan land and generates some 100,000 permanent jobs. The Moroccan Green Plan which outlines steps to modernize the olive oil sector will raise the production of olive oil in Morocco to some 340,000 tons yearly.

Olives are Morocco's most important fruit crop. They generate an annual production of 40 000 t of olive oil, 100 000 t of table olives and 180 000 t of dregs. In an effort to offset a national deficit in edible oil, Morocco has adopted an ambitious National Olive Growing Plan which, notably, provides for doubling the olive-tree production area.

Most of the nation's olive oil is produced on traditional units called "maâsras". Since these units have a low crushing capacity, the oil produced is of rather poor quality, the extraction provides a light yield and the resulting dregs, rather than being converted into something useful, are simply dumped and become a threat to the environment. New projects aim to improve the efficiency of existing technologies and methods, enhance the quality of olive oil, produce high-protein feed for livestock and develop a production technology for high value-added secondary metabolites to be used in various industries.

Researchers at Hassan II Agricultural and Veterinary Institute (Institut agronomique et vétérinaire Hassan II, IAV) conducted studies among olive growers to determine the optimum time for harvesting olives for the crushing industry. According to the results, olives should be harvested at the semi-black or black stage when they have a fairly high content of oil and phenolic compounds.

In collaboration with the growers, the teams established two mobile units for crushing olives and extracting oil. The mobile units were made available to cooperatives and also served for demonstration purposes. Several producers restructured their operations on the basis of the proposed model. However, this technology is beyond the reach of most traditional olive crushers (maasras), who must rely on animal traction and are dependent on family labor (men, women and children). The team therefore encouraged small crushers to improve their operations by stripping the leaves and washing the olives, reducing the time the olives spend in storage, storing the olives in thin layers, avoiding multiple crushings, and improving hygienic conditions on the site. These efforts had a significant impact on the quality of the olive oil, which was reflected in the price. Some crushers were able to sell their entire output to export-oriented industrial units.

But, back to the International Olive meeting - Olive Oil Times Contributor Daniel Williams | Reports from Barceloma

The International Olive Oil Council met this past week in Essaouira, Morocco for its 25th Extraordinary Reunion. During the four-day encounter, significant members of the international olive oil community including industry experts, producers, consumers, and agricultural scientists participated in lively debates surrounding the present value of olive oil to assess current prices as they stand against today’s consumer profiles.

This past Tuesday, June 22nd the economic committee met to share information about the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 harvests and discussed a real need to modify current internal and external prices throughout the world. The committee agreed to enact any necessary changes or price modifications in their upcoming November reunion. The economic committee also met in a group seminar setting that discussed issues surrounding the inclusion of an olive oil’s country or region of origin on bottle labels.

On Wednesday, the 23rd the specialized technical committees of advertising and finance presented a list of promotional activities which it has been actively developing since its meeting in Madrid last November. In a similar vein, various countries have already followed suit, launching major advertising campaigns to promote olive oil at home and abroad.

The following day, June 24th the presidents of 18 delegations represented by the IOOC met to debate the function of the position of Executive Secretary. Most importantly, these delegates participated in an assessment of the surrounding Moroccan region that hosted the event and discussed plans to further develop the olive oil industry in North Africa.

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