Lebanese Olive Oil: Farmers Pitted Against Government
By: Amal Khalil
Published Saturday, June 16, 2012
A program launched by the government has so far completely failed to improve conditions for farmers.
Earlier this year, the government launched the national program for the collection of Lebanese olive oil, which aims to purchase oil produce for the Lebanese army from willing farmers.
The initiative, which was adopted under the supervision of the Agriculture and Social Affairs Ministries, endorses the purchase of 160,000 liters of oil from cooperatives in the governorate of the South, 44,000 liters from the Sidon district and 93,600 from the Tyre district.
At the time, oil was bought by the government on the condition that it be inspected in order to test its quality, which deprived hundreds of farmers from the opportunity of benefiting from the program.
Most of the oil produce had a high percentage of acid, exceeding 3 percent and peroxide exceeding 20.
This was due to erroneous methods that were used in the process of transforming olives into oil, starting with treatment in the field and ending with its packaging and storage, in addition to the use of harmful types of pesticides.
However, those farmers whose produce passed the inspection test fared no better.
Agricultural cooperatives in the South announced that the government has yet to pay for the olive oil purchased from farmers and delivered months ago.
At a meeting held at the Agricultural Extension Center in Tyre, the cooperatives called on the government to release payments due to the farmers, who have suffered significant losses.
In addition, each farmer was obliged to pay LL7,000 ($4.7) per 20 liters to cover the costs of carrying, transporting, packaging, and emptying the oil from plastic bottles into metal cans.
The meeting was held between representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, representatives and heads of the agricultural cooperative unions in the South.
The participants discussed some of the negative practices involved in the oil delivery initiative, including the farmers’ lack of knowledge in proper packaging and the delay in the army receiving the oil, which remained stacked at the cooperative centers for many weeks.
Furthermore, discussions covered the difficulties encountered in finding buyers for olive oil produce, its high cost, and the losses that farmers incur due to the lack of a market.
Cooperative representatives inquired about the assistance that the Ministry of Agriculture can offer them in order to provide support to the farmers.
The meeting also addressed the importance of establishing a cooperative union that specializes in the marketing of locally produced olive oil and the implementation of the five-year plan that was devised by the Ministry of Agriculture to purchase oil produce that reaches international standards for exportation.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.