Irrevocably known as one of the cradles of olive growing areas,
Lebanon’s ancestral heritage of olive trees along with its microclimate
and fertile rain-fed soil assembles auspicious conditions for the
production of high-quality olive oils.
All these favorable conditions combined, Lebanon still remains a low
scale producing country. This stagnation is due to many factors
including the civil war aftermath and the government’s apathy towards
its agricultural sector.
After a raging civil war that lasted fifteen years (1975-1990),
Lebanon found itself way behind its competitors who in the meantime had
drastically evolved in technology and developed an advanced agricultural
stratum. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, growers were still employing rustic
methods at producing their oil while the production and export volume of
the pre-war period haven’t been reached ever since.
production oscillates between 10,000 and 30,000 tons of olive oil yearly
depending on the crop. Its cultivation covers over 58,000 hectares of
land and about 41 percent of its produced oil takes place in the north,
followed by the South with 36 percent, 13 percent in the Bekaa valley,
and 10 percent in Mount Lebanon.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century that independent
producers started being aware of their digressed state and acted upon
their own initiative, instead of waiting for an unconcerned government
to value the country’s asset in olive cultivation.
engineer and well-travelled Lebanese entrepreneur, Youssef Fares is a
fifth-generation producer on a family-owned, 24-hectare grove in
Akkar-Baino, a district in northern Lebanon, near the Syrian border.
2004, Fares turned his family’s grove into a nationally and
internationally renowned company, Olive Trade, which produces EVOO and
olive-derived products under the brand name of Zejd (oil in ancient
Zejd’s EVOO is made with the endemic variety Soury,
the name of which comes from the word Tyre or Sour in Arabic, which is a
city located on the southern coast of Lebanon, one of the port cities
from where the Phoenicians began the tradition of commerce.
Although Lebanon doesn’t have a national reference for olive
collections, it is estimated that around ten olive varieties are being
cultivated, such as Samakmaki, Airouni, Baladi, Chami, Edlebis, with
Soury being the most common variety in the region. The fruit gives a
balanced bitter and pungent taste. This fruit has an exceptionally high
oil yield of 20 to 25 percent.
Fares is a conscientious producer,
and this has led him to employ an ethical philosophy in work that he
wishes will spread among his counterparts.
Through Olive Trade,
Fares valorizes waste by producing by-products from the olive press cake
(solid) that are later sold in the market, such as olive husk logs. The
olive mill waste (liquid), once properly treated, are used in the olive
orchards to irrigate the soil.
“Olive Trade” were the pioneers at
introducing good environmental practices in the country’s olive oil
supply chain. Ever since, more and more growers have followed the same
policy. “Through Olive Trade, we protect our environment while being
financially sustainable,” said Fares. More