Revenues from Lebanon bumper olive harvest are unlikely to be as high as expected, because of massive amounts of olive oil, smuggled across the border from Syria, reported the Daily Star.
According to Butros Harb, a member of parliament from the district of Batroun, the smuggling of Syrian olive oil in Lebanon is a problem that has become increasingly severe over the past four years.
To protect its olive-growing sector, in September 1999 the Lebanese government had raised a tax on olive-oil imports from 20 percent tax to 70 percent, while the tax on olives from 25 percent to 105 percent. But this did little to prevent smuggling.
According to the Daily Star, about 48,000 hectares of land in Lebanon are cultivated with some 8 million olive trees. The Ministry of Agriculture expects between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of olives to be harvested nationwide this year.
Syria’s olive-growing sector swamps Lebanon’s, with 600,000 hectares of olive groves, 40 million trees in production and 20 million saplings which have yet to give fruit. Furthermore, unlike Lebanon, Syria’s agricultural sector is heavily subsidized, with farmers getting discounts for electricity, diesel and water consumption.
Lebanese olive oil currently sells at $60 to $100 per 16.5-kg canister, while Syrian olive oil sell as half the price. — (Albawaba-MEBG)