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Bottlenecks of Lebanese olive industry

6-12-2017

With the closing of the olive season, and despite a bumper year, farmers are concerned with the disposal of the harvest, external competition and inability of presses to take in the needs of the villages. In this respect, olive growers in the districts of Tyre and Bint Jbeil said they had to wait days at the local press where olive bags are mounted up, which forced them to seek presses outside their towns, namely in Hasbaya and Rashaya. Olive growers in West Bekaa decried the high cost and competition involving the care for the crop then picking the harvest to extract the oil. This requires them to sell one oil dispenser at LBP 150,000 – 170,000, which is not easy on the pocket of the Lebanese consumer or dealer for several reasons, most importantly the excess of cheap Syrian-made oil (sold between LBP 50,000 to 70,000) dumping the domestic markets. In Hasbaya, Al Ittihad newspaper wrote, where the harvest is abundant this year, olive growers agree that were it not for the Syrian workforce, a large amount of olives could still be hanging on the trees. Syrian refugees represent between 75% to 85% of olive picking workers. On the other hand, Al Diyar referred to a comeback of olive cultivation in the Bekaa area, particularly in Hermel and Northern Bekaa, where it is flourishing because of the favorable climate conditions, unlike Baalbek, where it has been obstructed by the successive frost storms that hit the region. On the subject, the minister of industry, Hussein Haj Hassan, praised the distinctive quality of Hermel olive oil, pointing to studies that have shown its special taste and its physical and chemical attributes as branded by Claudio, the Italian extra virgin olive oil expert. According to Claudio, one olive oil gallon can be easily sold at USD 400 provided it adopts a brand, a unique method of marketing and glass packaging along with the Italian certificate to verify the quality of the product. This, Haj Hassan said requires the cooperation of some 100 farmers under the umbrella of a cooperative, which was never contemplated. (Al Diyar, Al Ittihad, Al Mustaqbal, November 30, December 4 and 6, 2017)

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