Political and Economic Crises Complicate the Harvest in Lebanon

Rising production costs and a weak local currency have hampered the harvest for olive farmers.

Kadisha Valley, Lebanon
Dec. 16, 2021
By Ephantus Mukundi
Kadisha Valley, Lebanon

Recent News

The Lebanese olive har­vest is near­ing its con­clu­sion with mixed results in the small Middle Eastern coun­try.

According to pre­lim­i­nary esti­mates from the International Olive Council, Lebanon is set to pro­duce 21,500 tons of olive oil in the 2021/22 crop year, a slight decrease com­pared with last year, but eight per­cent above the rolling five-year aver­age.

The farmer is suf­fer­ing because he and his house­hold group are forced to do this har­vest alone since wages for labor­ers are very high.- Ahmed Ibrahim, olive farmer

The IOC also esti­mates that table olive pro­duc­tion will also drop slightly, falling to 18,000 tons, which is slightly below the rolling five-year aver­age.

See Also:2021 Olive Harvest

This year’s olive har­vest­ing sea­son started in October and is expected to run until December, depend­ing on the region and the stage at which the olives are har­vested.

Historically, the olive pick­ing sea­son is an excit­ing time for Lebanese fam­i­lies as they gather with rel­a­tives before head­ing to the groves to har­vest a crop that has been part of their cul­ture for mil­len­nia.


However, the cel­e­bra­tory mood asso­ci­ated with the sea­son is damp­ened this year by low pro­duc­tion and the mul­ti­ple crises, includ­ing what the World Bank calls a severe and pro­longed eco­nomic depres­sion.”

Lebanon boasts 14 mil­lion olive trees cov­er­ing more than 57,000 hectares, mak­ing the coun­try a sig­nif­i­cant pro­ducer of table olives and olive oil for its size.

Lebanon is also home to some of the old­est olive groves in the world, includ­ing the renowned Sisters of Noah, which are said to be 6,000 years old. On aver­age, Lebanese olive trees are 150 years old.

About 9.5 per­cent of women and 12 per­cent of men in Lebanon are employed in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, accord­ing to World Bank data. However, the depre­ci­a­tion of the Lebanese pound against the United States dol­lar due to the country’s eco­nomic and polit­i­cal crises has deeply impacted the indus­try.

The farmer is suf­fer­ing because he and his house­hold group are forced to do this har­vest alone since wages for labor­ers are very high,” said Ahmed Ibrahim, an olive farmer. This is why they gather in the same house to har­vest and they do not respond to work­ers who work with them or use the auto­matic machines that we used before.”

Maroun Salameh, who owns an olive mill, said some pro­duc­tion costs, includ­ing diesel, have dou­bled. Suppliers also do not want to be paid in the unsta­ble Lebanese cur­rency, pre­fer­ring pay­ment in dol­lars.

People under­stand the atmos­phere,” he said. It is clear that there is no secret. We have suf­fered for a long time, and now the costs have increased for the last two months. People are under­stand­ing and are not sur­prised.”



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