Lebanon Businessnews News

Tough season for olive growers
Olive oil producers, call for dropping commodity out of Arab free trade agreements
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The union of olive farmers’ associations called the government to support the olive oil sector through purchasing 500,000 gallons of the produce (each gallon containing 16.6 kilograms).

The farmers also called for ruling out olive oil from the Arab Free Trade Agreement in a bid to protect the local product.

The president of the association of olive farmers in Koura, George Costantin, said that olive farmers have called the government to enact a plan to rescue the sector two months ago. He said that little action has so far been made in that regard.

“We have asked the government to purchase 500,000 barrels of olive oil at $100 per barrel in order to compensate for the damages inflicted on the sector due to the government policies,” Costantin said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s estimates, more than 57 percent of all farmers in the country are olive growers. The olive harvesting season extends from November until January each year.

According to Joseph Khoury, owner of an olive oil producing company in North Lebanon, the olive harvest season this year was much better than the 2010 season.

Khoury said that the main problem in the olive oil sector remains the high production cost, compared to other markets in the region.

Sayed Hamoud, owner of an olive oil company in Batroun, said that some farmers have complained that when pressed, the olives did not produce a plentiful amount of oil. He said that despite the complaints, the olive season this year is still acceptable.

According to Hamoud, the biggest problem for olive oil farmers is selling the produce. “We have never received support from the State and we got used to it,” he said.

Farmers have complained that trade agreements, mainly those with neighboring Arab countries, have contributed to dumping cheaper foreign olive oil on the local market.

“The best solution is for the State to support olive oil producers in selling their products at a lower price,” Khoury said.
Olive oil farmers also called the Lebanese Standards Institution, LIBNOR, to cancel the item which allows labeling the oil produced through mixing virgin olive oil with other refined oils as ‘olive oil’.

The farmers also called the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) to formulate a mechanism that would verify that the subsidized olive oil exports are locally-produced rather than imported. They also called IDAL to extend the export subsidies to olive oil farmers and not traders.

Date Posted: Nov 23, 2011
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