Palestinian Olive oil to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in 2009
The Fairtrade Foundation is delighted to confirm that the first Palestinian olive oil to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark will start to appear on UK shop shelves in 2009.
Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation says: 'The Fairtrade Foundation has been working with olive producers in Palestine and is very excited by prospect of this new product being available to the British public in 2009. I know Fairtrade supporters across the UK will take this initiative to heart. Olive production is a vital source of livelihood income for Palestinian communities. The FAIRTRADE Mark will help increase their access to international markets and provide opportunities to earn more sustainable incomes.'
Olive and olive oil production is often the only feasible agricultural activity that can take place on fragile and marginal lands and is a crucial alternative to abandonment or desertification. As a result of the conflict in the region, Palestinian farmers continue to face severe barriers in carrying out their normal day-to-day agricultural activities caused through restrictions on movement and water shortages which exacerbate levels of deprivation and marginalisation.
Internationally recognised Fairtrade certification of registered small farmers’ associations will support and encourage the Palestinian producers to work collectively and be a stronger voice in vocalising their desire to farm in peace. The FAIRTRADE Mark will provide opportunities to earn more sustainable incomes and improve future prospects for their communities.
This opportunity for Palestinian olive growers has been made possible through extending the scope of international Fairtrade Nuts and Oilseeds Standards in2008 to include olives and olive oil from Western Asia and North Africa. The standards include regionally-based minimum prices for both organic and conventional olive oil and were developed through close consultation with producer groups and exporters. They will enable the sustainable costs of production to be covered together with Fairtrade premiums being paid to the certified farmers’ organisations to invest collectively in community development, quality or business improvements. More details of the standards can be found at: www.fairtrade.net/smfarmers.html
The Palestinian farmers’ organisations and the Palestinian Fair Trade Association have been working with Oxfam and fair trade organisations such as Zaytoun to achieve the social, environmental and economic criteria for certification. Farmers must be members of legally registered and democratically run organisations which will ensure the equitable distribution of Fairtrade premiums for maximum shared benefit. It is expected that the first groups will complete the certification process in the first half of 2009, enabling Palestinian olive oil carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark to be available in shops next year.
Mahmoud Issa, a olive farmer from the village of Anin, near Jenin, is a member of his village co-operative that is working towards FLO certification. He says Fairtrade represents hope. 'The promise of Fairtrade is helping truly revitalize the olive farming sector in many parts of the West Bank by guaranteeing farmers fair prices and living wages. In the past, we were often forced to sell our products at a loss due to the economic situation, but fair trade has re-established thousands of small farmers' faith in the sustainability of the agricultural sector in Palestine. In addition, we have been able to establish a more direct relationship with our consumers, who are assured of the quality and purity of the oil we produce.'
Farmers in the region have already been discussing potential uses of the Fairtrade premiums. Proposals include:
- Purchase of processing machinery to enable more efficient mechanised pressing techniques and production of high quality oil demanded by the market
- Training on pruning and harvesting techniques to improve productivity;
- Installation of irrigation and the use of organic fertiliser;
- Communal storage facilities for the olive oil;
- Community schools and medical centres;
- Improvement of rural roads for transport of olives from the tree to the press.
For more information on the Fairtrade Foundation go to: www.fairtrade.org.uk
 Western Asian olive oil producers include Palestine, Jordan and Syria. North African producing countries include Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Together these regions produce approximately 20% of the world’s olive oil.