The world productions of olive oil and table olive, the two main products of some 10 million hectares of olive groves, reach 2,800,000 t and 1,700,000 t respectively. More than 98% of this production is to be found in the Mediterranean Basin, where this agricultural system has been developing for thousands of years, characterised by its adaptation to the environment and its empiricism.
Several factors have modified the olive production and processing systems in the last decades. The crisis of traditional agriculture and the valorisation of olive oil, due to its organoleptic attributes and its beneficial influence on health, are probably the two most important features. As a consequence great advances have been made in olive growing and olive oil technology.
Spain is the main olive producing country. The average olive oil production in Spain has increased in recent years and its productive potential can be estimated at 1,100,000 t of olive oil. The volume exported has also increased to approximately 400,000 t. Spain is also at the forefront of table olive production and exportation with 500,000 t and 300,000 t respectively. Besides the economic importance of olive products, the R&D efforts made over the last decades have placed Spain among the leading countries in the technological progress of olive groves and their products.
The existence in Córdoba of long-standing teaching and research institutions such as the Universidad de Córdoba (UCO), the Instituto Andaluz de Investigación y Formación Agraria, Pesquera, Alimentaria y de la Producción Ecológica (IFAPA) and the Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible (IAS), and their proximity to Sevilla and Jaén, the home of other prestigious institutions working in the subject: the Instituto de la Grasa (IG), the Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla (IRNAS) and the Estación de Olivicultura y Elaiotecnia de Jaén (EOE), provide an excellent venue at which to develop an international programme on olive growing and on the processing of olive oil and table olives, contributing to train professionals and researchers in these fields and to develop cooperation relationships between the participants.