35,000 Tons of Stolen Syrian Olive Oil May Already Be in Europe

This figure represents about half of the olive oil that has reportedly smuggled out from Afrin. A new pro-Turkish ally in the occupied Syrian territory denies the oil "was stolen" at all.

Feb. 28, 2019
By Daniel Dawson

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At least 10,000 tons of stolen Syr­ian olive oil may already be in Spain, accord­ing to a report from Ger­man broad­caster Deutsche Welle and data pub­lished by the Turk­ish Radio and Tele­vi­sion Cor­po­ra­tion, a state-run media entity.

Both out­lets also reported that ship­ments of the olive oil, which has been pur­port­edly blended with Turk­ish oil in cities across the bor­der from Syria then exported to Europe, have been enter­ing Spain for the past 10 months.

Both offi­cials have not explained yet how the oil was bought at a price of 16.50 Turk­ish lira, while it is being sold at 20 to 25 Turk­sih lira in Turkey- Vatan Mehmet, inves­tiga­tive reporter at Cypriot Post

In the last 10 months Turkey has exported 37 per­cent of its pro­duc­tion to Spain, which is approx­i­mately 40,000 tons,” Deutsche Welle said on its Ara­bic-lan­guage new web­site, cit­ing fig­ures pro­vided by the Turk­ish Radio and Tele­vi­sion Cor­po­ra­tion. But a quar­ter of this pro­duc­tion comes from the Kur­dish [Syr­ian] region of Afrin.”

In its most recent report, which runs until Octo­ber 2018, the Span­ish government’s cus­toms agency said it was not aware of any Turk­ish olive oil imports enter­ing the coun­try. No Span­ish com­pa­nies have been accused of any wrong­do­ing and many deny import­ing olive oil from Turkey at all.

See more: Span­ish Sen­a­tors Demand Inves­ti­ga­tion of Turk­ish Imports

Nei­ther Deutsche Welle nor the Turk­ish Radio and Tele­vi­sion Cor­po­ra­tion responded to requests for com­ment from Olive Oil Times. The Aegean Exporters Asso­ci­a­tion has also denied that any stolen Syr­ian olive oil is being exported from Turkey.


Turkey’s Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, Bekir Pakdemirli, on the other hand, has pub­licly acknowl­edged that olive oil was con­fis­cated from Syria, but did not say what became of it.

How­ever, another 25,000 tons of the report­edly stolen and blended Syr­ian olive oil may also have found its way onto the island of Cyprus, accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Cyprus Post. Cyprus is located slightly more than 60 miles south of Turkey.

Vatan Mehmet, the inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who wrote the arti­cle, told Olive Oil Times that he became aware of the story when a local pro­duc­ers asso­ci­a­tion, Zeysan, com­plained about a recent influx of severely under­priced olive oil.

At the time of the imports, Turk­ish olive oil was sell­ing for about 20 to 25 Turk­ish lira per liter (about $3.76 to $4.70) on the island. How­ever, the most recent ship­ment was sell­ing for 16.50 Turk­ish lira per liter ($3.10).

Both Cyprus’ Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Erkut Sahali and the head of the orga­ni­za­tion that imported the oil, Hur­rem Tulga, denied that the oil was from Syria. How­ever, nei­ther one could answer why the prices of the imported oil were so low and refused to com­ment fur­ther when pressed by Memet.

Both offi­cials have not explained yet how the oil was bought at a price of 16.50 Turk­ish lira while it is being sold at 20 to 25 Turk­ish lira in Turkey,” Memet said. The offi­cials kept their ambigu­ous tone regard­ing the amount to be imported, or the planned amount to be imported from now on.”

Nei­ther Sahali nor Tulga responded to requests for com­ment from Olive Oil Times.

Mean­while, Nasir Hussu, the head of the Turk­ish-backed Afrin Cham­ber of Indus­try and Trade, told local reporters at a press con­fer­ence that no olive oil has been stolen from Afrin at all.

We sold our olive oil to the Turk­ish traders at world prices, mostly, the Spain-based price,” Hussu said. We totally reject these claims [that any olive oil was stolen from Afrin].”

Hussu’s insis­tence that local pro­duc­ers have been paid mar­ket prices for their olives comes in the face of con­sid­er­able evi­dence to the con­trary, rang­ing from eye-wit­ness reports from the Syr­ian Obser­va­tory for Human Rights and other local sources to the afore­men­tioned admis­sions from Pakdemirli.

Sep­a­rately, both Span­ish and Swiss politi­cians are press­ing their gov­ern­ments and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to fur­ther inves­ti­gate what is going on.

Bernard Guhl, a Swiss Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, told Olive Oil Times that he expects answers from his gov­ern­ment about whether any olive oil orig­i­nat­ing from Afrin has entered Switzer­land some­time in March.

Car­les Mulet Gar­cía and Jordi Navar­rete Pla, two Span­ish sen­a­tors, have also for­mally asked their gov­ern­ment and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate Turk­ish olive oil exports to the Euro­pean Union. Nei­ther entity has pub­licly stated that they are cur­rently inves­ti­gat­ing the issue.

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