Mideast: outlook on olive oil production negative in W. Bank

PNA minister, due to environment and Israel's restrictions

15 October, 14:30

    (ANSAmed) - RAMALLAH, OCTOBER 15 - The outlook on olive oil production in the occupied Palestinian territories is negative, Palestinian Agriculture Minister Walid Assaf told ANSA in an interview. The drop in production risks further hindering the West Bank's economy and weigh on most Palestinian families who own at least a few olive trees. "The reasons for the drop are in part connected to the environment and the changeability of the natural cycle of crops, and in part connected to the difficulties faced by Palestinian farmers in harvesting olives due to Israeli restrictions and attacks by settlers", said the minister.

    "Over the past few years the drop was close to 50% in areas close to Israeli settlements or the separation barrier", said Assaf.

    "Attacks against Palestinian farmers by extremist settlers take place on a daily basis today, without considering the hundreds of trees that are burned or cut. A number of meetings have taken place with Israeli authorities on this issue and the Israeli army has recently arrested a number of settlers in the areas of Nablus and Salfir".

    In order to confront the destruction of trees and the confiscation of land by Israel for security reasons, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has launched a project to plant over 3.5 million olive trees in the next five years. The minister also stressed the problem of permits issued by the Israeli army to Palestinian farmers during crops. The production of olive oil and olives is a key part of the Palestinian economy. Production in 2012 totalled 30,000 tons of oil and 6,000/7,000 tons of olives sold.

    The agriculture ministry estimates that 15,000 tons of olive oil will be produced this year - 8,000 for the domestic market and the rest exported to Gaza, about 3,000 tons, thanks to an accord with Israel, and in Israeli territory, about 5,000 tons.

    A recent World Bank report noted that agriculture can be key in the development of the Palestinian economy and stressed that the exploitation of vast areas of land, especially in the Jordan Valley, costs the Palestinian economy some 3.4 billion dollars a year due to Israeli restrictions. (ANSAmed).

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