Oxfam: Palestinian olive oil profits affected by settler violence

[ 15/10/2010 – 08:32 PM ]

Settlers trying to stop Palestinians from reaching their fields to harvest their olive crop

A new Oxfam report highlights that while the olive oil sector generates income and employment in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), numerous obstacles ranging from a lack of investment in farming practices to the impact of settler violence – are stifling its true potential.

Palestinian olive oil, reputed to be among the best in the world if produced to high standards, has the potential to become a leader in olive oil organic and fair trade markets worldwide, according to a new report released by Oxfam today as the olive harvest season begins in the West Bank.

The report, “The road to olive farming: challenges to developing the economy of olive oil in the West Bank”, highlights how the olive sector, which contributes up to $100 million in yearly income for some of the poorest Palestinian communities, could bring a brighter future for the Palestinian economy, provided its full potential is realized.

“With limited investment, and simple changes in farming methods, Palestinian olive farmers could double their incomes and produce a consistent supply of high quality olive oil able to compete at home and abroad”, explains Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International. “Yet, such investments can have little effect unless Israel, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967, refrains from actions that restrict Palestinian farmers from access to their land and means of livelihoods, and to foreign markets”, he adds.

The report calls on Israeli authorities to put an end to restrictions of access to land and to markets for Palestinian farmers. Physical barriers such as checkpoints and road blocks prevent the free movement of people and goods within the West Bank and cut Palestinian agricultural produce, including olives and olive oil, off from  internal, Israeli and international markets. Due to the presence of numerous Israeli settlements and outposts – which are all illegal under International Law – in the West Bank, settler attacks or harassment against Palestinian olive farmers are common and often increase during the time of the harvest. The Israeli imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip has also affected the import of olives and olive oil from the West Bank considerably.

The report also calls on the Palestinian Authority and on donors to support Palestinian olive oil producers and their families by increasing investment in the sector. A lack of adequate resources and ineffective management, combined with environmental factors and poor production practices have caused stagnation in its development. The report explains how organizing producers into cooperatives  and improving farming and olive pressing techniques would help small scale farmers produce a consistent quantity of high quality olive oil that meets requirements of export markets in Europe, the US and Arab countries, as well as maintain a steady supply for the domestic market.

Oxfam, with funding from the European Union, works in partnership with local organizations  to improve the quantity and quality of the olive oil produced by 30 West Bank olive cooperatives, so that their product can gain Fair Trade and organic certification. The higher prices on these profitable niche markets will help Palestinian olive oil be competitive despite high production costs and obstacles to trade, which place it at a competitive disadvantage.

“If the Palestinian Authority, Israel, the international community, donors and NGOs all do their part to invest in olive oil, they will also be investing in a more stable and secure future for the Palestinian people”, says Hobbs.

Source: Oxfam website
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Oxfam: Palestinian olive oil profits affected by settler violence.

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