The price of olive oil in the West Bank has decreased despite continued decline in production this year, thanks to the smuggling of oil from Israel without obtaining the official permits from the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
According to a statement issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the Palestinian production of olive oil in the West Bank was 12,000 tonnes this year, whereas the average oil production in good years has been around 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes.
Due to the decline in production this year, Palestinian farmers expected an increase in prices, but they were shocked by the huge quantities of smuggled olive oil from Israel flooding the markets and bringing the prices down.
Ahmad Majdalani, the Acting Minister of Agriculture, confirmed the decrease in the oil prices was because of the smuggling of huge quantities of oil into the West Bank. He said the oil is smuggled via Palestinian traders who stick Palestinian labels on the oil containers. He said Palestinians do not have any control over the crossing checkpoints, nor do they have any control over Zone C, where Israeli traders and their Palestinian associates move freely.
Majdalani stressed that neither the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture nor the Ministry of Economy had issued a single permit for import of Israeli olive oil or from anywhere else for the past two years. He said that as per Palestinian law, sale of Israeli oil in the Occupied Territories is illegal and constitutes a direct violation of the law.
A kilogram of olive oil in the West Bank costs 15 to 20 shekels (Dh14-Dh19) whereas last year it cost 24 to 28 shekels when the total production was 18,000 tonnes. Olive trees occupy about 50 per cent of Palestinian agricultural land.
Abdul Latif Abu Shaikh, a Palestinian olive oil trader, said most of the Palestinian-produced oil is consumed locally, with Palestinian families buying the oil at presses across the West Bank. Oil traders store the oil after the harvest season is over to get higher gains later.
Abu Shaikh said the Palestinian farmers grow their olive trees in a way that avoid the use of irrigation, so oil produced in the West Bank is completely different in taste, smell and colour.