Jordan's olive oil production in 2000-2001 is likely to reach 26,275 tones, compared to only 4,000-6,000 tones in 1999-2000, said a senior Ministry of Agriculture official last week. In 1999-2000, the olive oil production only met around 20 percent of the Kingdom's needs, due to the regional drought caused by minimum winter rainfall.
The consumption deficit in 1999-2000 was covered by a surplus in the 1998-1999 production, consumer rationalization of basic food staples and Spanish and Tunisian olive oil imports. “The local consumption of olive oil in 2000-2001 is expected to total 23,000 tones. Consequently, Jordan will be self-sufficient in olive oil production,” said Mohammad Obeidat, the ministry assistant secretary general.
“The increase in production is due to 1999-2000 rainfall season which was much better than the year before,” he said. The southern areas of Jordan last winter received 20-30 percent of the annual average rainfall. Meanwhile, half the normal volume of rain fell in the central part of the country in the same period. In the north, rainfall reached 90 percent.
According to Obeidat, the last winter rainfall and snow wave helped improve the olive production in 2000-2001, as has the fact that olive trees can withstand drought conditions. In 1998-1999, the overall average of the rainfall in Jordan was not more than 35-55 percent of the annual average, one reason for the low production of olive oil.
In addition, the low production of 1998-1999 is due to the scientific phenomenon, known as “alternate bearing.” Good olive production occurs each couple of years, the official explained.
“The production of olives in 2000-2001 is likely to reach 165,800 tones where 140,600 will be pressed to produce 26,275 tones of oil,” he said. “The production will be concentrated in the capital, Balqa, Jerash, Irbid and Ajloun.”
Currently, around one million dunums of land are planted with 20 million olive trees, making olives Jordan's top agricultural product. Farmers, encouraged by the ministry to grow more olive trees, “are expected to plant 64,280 more dunums per year,” said Obeidat.
The official advised olive growers and grove owners in the Jordan Valley and its surrounding areas to press olive in mid-October. In Balqa, Jerash, Irbid and Northern Badia, it is recommended to press olives in early November.
The ministry, according to Obeidat, may protect locally- produced olive oils in 2000-2001 by banning olive oil imports in certain periods when “our olive oil production is enough to satisfy citizens needs.” — ( Jordan Times )
By Khalid Dalal
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)