Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat – The exhibitors at the first Jordanian Olive Products Exporters Association (JOPEA) ‘Zait Wa Zaitoun’ exhibition [oil and olives exhibition] highlighted the quality of Jordanian olive oil, as well as other Jordanian olive products. The exhibition also displayed various types of pickled olives stuffed with carrots, pepper, yoghurt, and thyme.
The companies exhibiting their products at this exhibition attempted to demonstrate the aesthetic beauty of their products’ glass and metal packaging; in fact some companies displayed their olive products in wooden boxes made of olive trees.
Several years ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan drew the attention of Jordanian farmers to the necessity of being open to the world and exporting Jordanian olive oil to Europe, the US, China, Brazil, and elsewhere.
The ‘Zait Wa Zaitoun’ exhibition was attended by thirty exhibitors, from large companies and individual olive oil presses to olive farmers and parties interested in manufacturing olive products such as pickles or wooden works of art carved from olive trees.
The exhibit was also attended by Jordanian Minister of Agriculture Saeed al Masri. Al Masri announced that he had verified a number of facts [at the exhibition], the most important of which is the need to establish a “Supreme Council for Oil” in order to develop policies for marketing, pricing, importing and exporting olive oil and thereby solve the problems faced by [Jordanian] olive farmers and workers.
The Minister of Agriculture, Saeed al Masri, opened the exhibition to the public, and later took part in a tour of the exhibition. Al Masri also listened to the concerns of olive farmers, and the problems and obstacles that they face, especially with regards to the imported oil that has affected the price of locally produced olive oil. A single jar of Jordanian olive oil now costs 80 Jordanian Dinars (JOD) or US $112, however merchants are able to import olive oil from Syria, Tunisia, and other countries for no more than US $60 but “at the expense of quality” according to Jordanian olive farmers. The farmers have demanded that specific criteria be introduced for imported olive oil, specifically that this olive oil matches the quality of locally produced oil.
The ‘Zait Wa Zaitoun’ exhibition, which marks King Abdullah’s declaration of 2009 as the Jordanian ‘Year of Agriculture’ was organized by JOPEA and was held between 3-4 July in the Cultural Gallery at Al Hussein Park in Amman. This exhibition reflected the progress that Jordan has made in the olive oil industry as an integrated system of quality production and first-rate packaging. The exhibitors at this exhibition represent [Jordanian] success stories illustrating the international standard of Jordanian olive oil production. According to the Minister of Agriculture, it was King Abdullah II who came up with the idea of exporting Jordanian olive oil eight years ago.
Al Masri added that the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for supporting the Jordanian food industry, which includes olive oil. He said that the Ministry of Agriculture aims to help the olive oil industry overcome the obstacles that it is facing, particularly the competition from imported olive oil which is cheaper [than Jordanian olive oil] but generally of a poorer quality. The Ministry of Agriculture has already drawn up technical specifications for imported olive oil, tightening the conditions for their importation.
On the other hand, JOPEA Chairman Mousa al Saket said, “The exhibition includes a number of cultural activities and displays for special products, in addition to educational lectures.”
He added that the exhibition is sponsored by the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture, the Amman Chamber of Industry, the Greater Amman Municipality, the Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation, the Amman Chamber of Commerce, the US Agency for International Development, and the Tatweer program.
The exhibition took place in the framework of the efforts of the aforementioned institutions to promote locally manufactured olive oil. It was also an opportunity for the public to enjoy their weekend, and included the direct selling of olives and oil, with special offers on selected items, in addition to educational lectures, oil tasting, and demonstrations of the art of cooking using olive oil, in addition to the varied cultural activities on offer.
There were thirty various olive oil-related companies involved in the first ‘Zait Wa Zaitoun’ exhibition that all displayed their products including olive oil and olives, as well as wooden artefacts made of olive tree wood, cosmetics and ceramics. Products used in olive oil production, such as filtration and agricultural equipment, were also on show.
Al Saket noted the importance of this exhibition, saying that it had “increased the spread of knowledge on the uses of olive oil.” He added, “The average consumption per capita [in Jordan] stands at 4 kilograms per year in comparison to 12 kilograms per year in Europe.” Al Saket stressed that a target of 10 kilograms per year could be increased by raising people’s awareness with regards to the benefits of olive oil, which is something that has been established by medical studies. Al Saket gave the example that olive oil reduces the risks of ageing [risk of heart attack etc].
Al Saket went on to say that “olive oil contains the anti-oxidation Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Vitamin E, which prevents wrinkles and protects the skin. Applying olive oil to the neck and face for fifteen minutes twice a week removes wrinkles…as oil is absorbed through the skin. [Olive oil also] protects against greying hair.”
Jordan is ranked eighth in the world with regards to olive production, and the country has almost 20 million olive trees. According to experts, the Jordanian olive is well known for its high quality and distinctive taste, and is therefore well suited for exportation. Around 34 percent of Jordan’s cultivated land is used for olive production however despite this oil production last year did not exceed US $12 million.