07 Nov

Cash-strapped Palestinians bank on rich olive crop

By Atef Sa’ad,

Mazuza Raja tosses a tray of freshly picked olives into the air, a traditional way of sorting a harvest so good this year that Palestinians dare dream of better fortune.

“The olive provides a main source of income for my family,” said the 55-year-old woman, who lives in a village near the
West Bank city of Jenin. “It is like green petrol for us, because we have no other source of income.”

With an expected bumper crop in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials hope to triple olive oil sales this year, boosting an otherwise failing economy.

Increasing numbers of Palestinians — 100,000 families in the West Bank alone — rely on olive sales to feed their families and the crop this year “is expected to be exceptional,” a recent
World Bank brief said.

As she sifts through olives and plops the choicest into a pail, Raja calculates that the total yield from her 200 trees could be pressed to make 30 barrels of oil for which she could earn about $2,200.

That would be enough to feed her family this year.

Fares Jabi, a government farming consultant, said Palestinians expected to earn up to $110 million from olive oil sales this year in all the West Bank and Gaza, more than three times the $30 million made in 2005.

Khaled Jneidi, chairman of the Palestinian Oil Council, said olive oil’s low cholesterol levels were helping boost world demand.

“But the problem facing us here is marketing,” Jneidi said, citing international sanctions imposed on the
Palestinian Authority since the militant group Hamas came to power in March and his concerns that Israeli border restrictions could disrupt oil shipments abroad.

A foreign aid boycott — a bid to press Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce violence — has plunged the Palestinian economy into a crisis in which tens of thousands of civil servants have gone for months without full pay.

Some Palestinians also accuse their government of failing to divert enough funds to exhaust the olive crop’s potential, particularly in the West Bank, although the amount of land there planted with olive trees has nearly doubled since 1972.

[Source] Click here to continue

Leave a Reply