Olive Oil Producers in Middle East Enjoy Award-Winning Finish to Bumper Harvest

Producers in Lebanon, Israel and Jordan overcame economic challenges to celebrate success at the 2023 World Olive Oil Competition.
Solar Olive's groves in northern Lebanon
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jun. 8, 2023 20:08 UTC

Amid the chal­lenges posed by ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs and grow­ing mar­ket uncer­tain­ties, farm­ers and pro­duc­ers from Lebanon, Jordan and Israel cel­e­brated an award-win­ning end to the pre­vi­ous har­vest.

Growers and millers from the three coun­tries com­bined to win 14 awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, up from the ten awards pro­duc­ers from the three coun­tries earned at the pre­vi­ous edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Lebanese NYIOOC win­ners were praised for their efforts by their country’s out­go­ing Minister of Agriculture, Abbas Hajj Hassan.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Lebanon

Producers in the coun­try, endur­ing one of the worst finan­cial crises of mod­ern times, com­bined to win two Gold Awards and a Silver Award.

Lebanese pro­duc­ers cited work­force short­ages, power cuts and ram­pant infla­tion as some of the many chal­lenges they faced dur­ing the pre­vi­ous har­vest.

Still, the coun­try pro­duced 17,000 tons of olive oil in the 2022/23 crop year, in line with the five-year aver­age.

Olive oil is a promis­ing prod­uct with which Lebanon can com­pete with most export­ing coun­tries despite the many crises it is going through,” Hassan said in April when the first Lebanese pro­duc­ers were awarded.


Karim Arsanios

It is heart­warm­ing to see Lebanese extra vir­gin olive oil brands win­ning such com­pe­ti­tions abroad; it makes me really happy,” Karim Arsanios, the owner of Solar Olives, located in the north­ern hills of Lebanon, told Olive Oil Times.

Solar won a Gold Award in 2022 and a Silver Award in 2023 with its Kour extra vir­gin olive oil, plac­ing itself among the rare Lebanese pro­duc­ers to win awards in con­sec­u­tive years at the World Competition.

When I first started pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, I wanted some­thing full of char­ac­ter, tangy and pep­pery, all attrib­utes that I could­n’t find in Lebanese olive oils,” Arsanios said.

Since the begin­ning, we were not try­ing to become the world’s best pro­ducer but rather to try to help Lebanese extra vir­gin olive oils con­quer the inter­na­tional scene,” he added. Our land has a lot to offer, and I like to think that I had some­thing to do with what we are see­ing in Lebanon [regard­ing high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion].”

Solar has an organic farm­ing approach that inte­grates tra­di­tional ele­ments with mod­ern tech­niques and state-of-the-art tech­nolo­gies.

What I did when I first started this project was adopt old prac­tices of work­ing the land and updat­ing them by instill­ing new tech­niques based on sci­ence,” Arsanios said.

We let nature do the work and try to inter­fere as lit­tle as pos­si­ble,” he added. We have a small ecosys­tem where chick­ens and other ani­mals fer­til­ize the land nat­u­rally.”

Because we’re an organic brand, we go through a tedious process of sort­ing the olives, dis­card­ing the ones that are dry, dented or that have bugs,” Arsanios con­tin­ued.

Farther south in Jordan, Al-Maida Agricultural cel­e­brated win­ning two Gold Awards and a Silver Award.


(Photo: Al-Maida Agricultural)

The awards came at the end of a slightly bet­ter-than-expected sea­son, with Jordan pro­duc­ing 27,500 tons of olive oil, slightly above the five-year aver­age.

Over the past three years, Al-Maida Agricultural has set a goal of sus­tain­able expan­sion in the Jordan desert and has won five Gold Awards and four Silver Awards along the way.


However, founder and chief exec­u­tive Ziad Bilbeisi and his daugh­ter, Amelia, said ensur­ing high qual­ity through the years is dif­fi­cult.

Any pro­ducer will tell you it takes pas­sion, ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment,” they told Olive Oil Times. But for us, we would say that we remain focused on the con­sis­tency of qual­ity no mat­ter what prob­lems are encoun­tered.”

We work with the high­est cal­iber chefs world­wide, and they have qual­ity and fla­vor expec­ta­tions,” they added. We have to deliver on that year after year.”

The Al-Maida Agricultural encom­passes dif­fer­ent ter­roirs with dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars and soil.

It varies from silty loamy, sandy loamy to loamy clay, lead­ing us to approach each with their spe­cific care and milling [set­tings],” the pro­duc­ers said.

Water for irri­ga­tion is a sig­nif­i­cant issue for vast areas of Jordan. We work year-round to care for our trees,” the Bilbeisi said. Jordan is a water-poor coun­try, so we employ ded­i­cated tech­nolo­gies to mon­i­tor our water usage and employ a water man­age­ment plan.”

Currently, we are work­ing on a new sys­tem based on research and daily data analy­sis to pre­serve even more water,” they added, hint­ing at the ongo­ing work to fur­ther improve the sus­tain­abil­ity of their olive farm­ing activ­i­ties.

Al-Maida’s win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils are Arbequina and Arbosana mono­va­ri­etals, grown by the com­pany together with Koroneiki and local cul­ti­vars, such as Nabali.

A new vari­ety for us is Oliana, which we planted dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic lock­down,” the father-daugh­ter team said. We are immensely proud of its poten­tial and already see­ing [the first results].”

Oliana is an Arbequina-Arbosana hybrid devel­oped in Spain to pop­u­late super-inten­sive (super-high-den­sity) olive groves.

We are extremely opti­mistic about the new sea­son as it is the cul­mi­na­tion of sev­eral years of hard work and plan­ning com­ing to fruition,” they said. So far, every­thing indi­cates a pos­i­tive and plen­ti­ful upcom­ing har­vest despite recent tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions.”

Meanwhile, to the west of Jordan, pro­duc­ers in Israel cel­e­brated a record haul of eight awards at the NYIOOC. The award-win­ning fin­ish to the year came after a bumper har­vest in which Israel pro­duced 18,000 tons of olive oil, far exceed­ing the five-year aver­age of 15,000 tons.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Israel

With three Gold Awards won at the com­pe­ti­tion, KeremZait con­firmed itself as one of the best Israeli olive oil pro­duc­ers.

In the last few years, Israeli pro­duc­ers’ pres­ence at the NYIOOC has steadily grown, with this year’s total slightly exceed­ing last year’s and more than dou­bling the total of 2021.

The last sea­son was an excel­lent sea­son for KeremZait,” owner Nimrod Azulay told Olive Oil Times. Following one of our low­est yields, last season’s yield was excep­tion­ally high. What was excit­ing for us is that the oil qual­ity was beyond our expec­ta­tions.”


KeremZait owner Nimrod Azulay sells most of his extar virgin olive oil locally.

Besides apply­ing a pre­cise pro­to­col to all farm­ing and har­vest to milling oper­a­tions on the field, Azulay also attrib­utes his suc­cess to state-of-the-art and self-made tech­nolo­gies that trans­form the olives within two hours of har­vest­ing.

We use the lat­est tech­nolo­gies avail­able, together with some tra­di­tional tech­niques and machin­ery that was mostly designed and built in-house,” Azulay said.

We are also for­tu­nate to have our olive groves in an excep­tional ter­roir, made of highly fer­tile vol­canic soil and excel­lent cli­mate for grow­ing olives in the north­ern Jordan val­ley,” he added.

Azulay finally stressed the role exerted by the rela­tion­ship with the cus­tomers in sup­port­ing the efforts to pro­duce high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.

It is an essen­tial ele­ment in our approach to olive oil pro­duc­tion,” he con­cluded. We hand deliver our olive oil to most of our local cus­tomers and make sure to get their feed­back.”


Related Articles