By Nicole Arriaga | Reporting from Rome
Farmers and olive oil producers in Jordan are up in arms over the lack of control of what they believe to be illegally imported olive oil into the country. The Jordan Times is reporting that the influx of imported olive oil from neighboring countries such as Syria is creating bad business for local producers and putting a damper on the local economy. Ahmad Saadoun, owner of the Al Amin Oil Presses Group said individual traders are bringing in more than the legal limit of imported olive oil than what’s allowed, leaving local farmers and producers with an oversupply of their own stock that they are then unable to sell. This, he says enables traders to make a quick turn around with the imported olive oil by selling it at a cheaper rate at supermarkets while reaping the profits.
Traders are able to sell the imported oil at a much cheaper rate, Saadoun claims, because the quality is poorer than the domestic olive oil production. Experts say Jordan’s financial problems aren’t helping matters either. With the local economy facing such turmoil, the oversupply is driving consumers to opt for the least expensive olive oil rather than choosing for quality. Without better control over illegal imports, local farmers will continue to cut their losses or worse, quit the industry altogether.
According to Ezzeldin Faqir, a shareholder with the Al Barakeh Olive Oil Press in the Ajloun Governorate, illegal imports of olive oil have affected over 122 olive oil presses and farmers throughout Jordan. If the government doesn’t intervene soon to relieve the situation, he says the country’s economy which relies heavily on locally produced olive oil, could cause the local industry to crumble.
Olive Products Exporters Association founder Musa Saket met with the Minister of Agriculture this week to discuss the problems that local producers are facing. The minister vowed to take extra measures to ensure that the government is doing all it can to crack down on the illegal trade. Industry leaders told the Jordan Times that they urged authorities to take their promise one step further. They would like to see Jordan put a temporary hold on all imported olive oil and promote what’s locally produced to hopefully put the country’s olive oil industry back on track.