`Climate Extremes, Conflict Complicate Harvest in Palestine - Olive Oil Times

Climate Extremes, Conflict Complicate Harvest in Palestine

Dec. 6, 2021
Ephantus Mukundi

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Olive pro­duc­tion in Palestine is expected to fall by 60 per­cent in the 2021/22 crop year, accord­ing to the Ministry of Agriculture.

International Olive Council data show that Palestine pro­duced 12,000 tons of olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year, which was the low­est yield in more than a decade and 43 per­cent below the rolling five-year aver­age.

Farmers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the two ter­ri­to­ries that com­pose Palestine, started har­vest­ing olives in mid-October amid mul­ti­ple chal­lenges.

In the West Bank, a com­bi­na­tion of con­flict between Palestinians and Israeli set­tlers, uneven rain­fall dis­tri­b­u­tions and cli­mate extremes have once again com­pli­cated the har­vest.

See Also:2021 Harvest Updates

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), more than 9,300 olive trees have been destroyed in the West Bank since August 2020 as the result of regional con­flict.

For years, the ICRC has observed a sea­sonal peak in vio­lence by Israeli set­tlers resid­ing in cer­tain set­tle­ments and out­posts in the West Bank towards Palestinian farm­ers and their prop­erty in the period lead­ing up to the olive har­vest sea­son, as well as dur­ing the har­vest sea­son itself in October and November,” said Els Debuf, head of ICRC Jerusalem.

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Farmers also expe­ri­ence acts of harass­ment and vio­lence that aim at pre­vent­ing a suc­cess­ful har­vest, not to men­tion the destruc­tion of farm­ing equip­ment, or the uproot­ing and burn­ing of olive trees,” she added. This is an impor­tant con­cern that we con­tinue to share with the author­i­ties in charge.”

Further south­west in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza expects olive pro­duc­tion to fall by 60 per­cent due to issues caused by cli­mate change.

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Olive trees in Palestine

The author­i­ties esti­mate that the enclave’s 4,000 hectares of olive groves will pro­duce 26,237 tons of olives and 4,200 tons of oil.

The cli­mate events that affected the olives hap­pened last December and January,” Adham al-Bassiouni, the ministry’s spokesper­son, told Xinhua Net. Olives need tem­per­a­ture reg­u­lar­ity and that did not hap­pen.”

Experts in the region added that the erratic weather is also likely to make the cur­rent har­vest sea­son shorter than pre­vi­ous ones.

The Ministry of Agriculture said that while Gaza pre­vi­ously pro­duced enough olives and olive oil for its domes­tic needs, the region will have to import olive oil from the West Bank to meet its domes­tic demands.

However, al-Bassiouni said that even though this year has been another bad har­vest, it is not indica­tive of a larger trend.

This is not a per­ma­nent sit­u­a­tion for olives,” he said. Next year the har­vest will be fine as usual and we will export our har­vest.”

Among the farm­ers in the Gaza Strip fin­ish­ing up their har­vests is Ramzi Hamed, who owns 40 hectares of olive trees in north­ern Gaza.

He told Mondoweiss that the olive trees were like the peo­ple in Gaza, resilient to the daily strug­gles.

The olive is a sym­bol of Palestine. It is ancient, kind and linked to our cul­ture and her­itage,” Hamed said. My par­ents and grand­par­ents worked and cared for this land because when it gives, it gives gen­er­ously.”

I have learned that trees are sen­si­tive like humans. They feel and live the con­di­tions their own­ers live. The past year was not very good for Gaza, so the har­vest­ing is poor, too,” he added.

However, cli­mate change has had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on his farm­ing oper­a­tion, with yields steadily falling over the past sev­eral years.

Just a cou­ple of years ago, our land was pro­duc­ing 150 to 200 tons of olives, each pound sold for 15 to 25 Israeli new shekels (€4.20 to €7.00),” Hamed said.

This amount of olives pro­duces 2,000 gal­lons (9,100 liters) of olive oil,” he added. Yet this year, the har­vest this sea­son pro­duced only 25 tons of olives, and this amount made 300 gal­lons (1,360 liters) of oil.”



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