- Title: LEBANON: Lebanese olive oil producer hopes to increase worldwide exports
- Date: 10th July 2014
- Summary: BEIRUT, LEBANON (RECENT) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF OLIVE PRODUCTS SHOP IN BEIRUT WITH SIGN READING: ''HOUSE OF ZEJD.'' INTERIOR OF SHOP VARIOUS OF PRODUCTS ON DISPLAY (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LEBANESE OLIVE OIL PRODUCER YOUSSEF FARES SAYING: ''For a first year, it has been good, considering the situation in Lebanon. We are building our clientele. We do events, we invite people over to the shop, word of mouth, social media. We are building. A year ago, no one knew what Zejd was in Lebanon and we were not selling locally or retail and now we are venturing into retail. So it needs time for sure.'' MORE OF PRODUCTS ON DISPLAY OLIVE TREE LEAVES OUTSIDE SHOP OLIVE TREE OUTSIDE SHOP
- Embargoed: 25th July 2014 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Business,General,Economy
- Reuters ID: LVA5CIKZUESYB2IOLYE6DLNLPS61
- Story Text: Lebanon is an important producer of olive oil with some 14 million trees growing in the country and covering 57,000 hectares of land. This accounts for about 20 percent of the total cultivated area in the country and annual production can range from 50,000 tonnes to 190,000, according to the agriculture ministry.
The country produces between 6,000 to 16,000 tonnes of olive oil annually but very little of this is exported to European and Western countries because it does not meet European standards. But, one producer from northern Lebanon says he produces a high-quality extra virgin olive oil and exports to a number of countries in Europe including France and Switzerland, and wants to continue to expand into the market.
Thirty-five year old Youssef Fares not only faces the challenge of carrying on a family business which has been running for almost 200 years, but is also trying to improve and present this product to local and worldwide markets in a sleeker and more modern way.
'I am the fifth generation in the family producing olive oil. Since 1820 we have been making olive oil in Baino in Akkar, in this area specifically. Every generation has improved the way it produced olive oil, the quality and the quantity in order to ensure that this business survives. In Baino, there are 300 hectares of olive groves, most of it is either ours or for farmers we work with. One piece of land is for organic olive oil and another for conventional harvest,'' he said.
The olive oil producer says he also helps local growers by showing them ways to improve the way they cultivate as well buying the olives they produce.
Fares, who has founded the 'House of Zejd' which not only produces oil but soaps and other olive-based products, says that with a bit of research and understanding international laws, it is possible to produce a high-quality olive oil in Lebanon.
''In 2004, the calculations were that only 2 to 3 percent of Lebanon's olive oil was extra virgin and that Lebanon's olive oil cannot be exported to Europe because it is of low quality. There was a lot of lack of knowledge in this issue. But in my experience over the last ten years that this is not true. If you follow the standard practice and the international laws, then you will be able to produce good quality olive oil. Today, we are exporting to nine countries, to Switzerland, to France to Japan to Hong Kong, to Nigeria to the U.S., to the UAE," he said.
Although a matter of great national pride, the producer says many Lebanese don't really know much about olive oil and would like to help change that.
''We are trying as much as we can to improve the image of the Lebanese olive oil worldwide and to make new products in the local market and in our new shop in Beirut we are trying to inform the Lebanese consumer of the olive oil that is being produced which is of very good quality so we are saying to to them, please come and taste and find out what your preferences are,'' he said.
His concept store in Beirut, which has been open for over a year, organises olive oil tasting events where customers are invited to come and different olive oils including some infused oils and oils mixed with other Lebanese staples such as pomegranate molasses.
And despite Lebanon's continuous political and security turmoil, Fares says he is optimistic.
''For a first year, it has been good, considering the situation in Lebanon. We are building our clientele. We do events, we invite people over to the shop, word of mouth, social media. We are building. A year ago, no one knew what Zejd was in Lebanon and we were not selling locally or retail and now we are venturing into retail. So it needs time for sure,'' he said sitting among the shelves of various olive oil products including infused oils, tapenades, sprays, soaps and even chocolate.
The shop in Beirut's Ashrafieh district welcomes its customers with a tiny olive tree planted outside and a sign that says ''House of Zejd''. The word Zejd, Fares says, comes for the ancient Phoenician word for ''oil.''
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