Ma'an News Agency
September 25, 2010 - 12:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Agriculture will not fix olive oil prices ahead of the 2010 harvest season, the minister said, announcing a new mechanism of support for farmers.

Minister Isma’il D’eiq told Ma’an on Saturday that rather than fix prices, the ministry would offer loans to organizations with tenders to purchase the oil for less than 20 shekels ($5.41) per kilo.

With the average cost to farmers to produce one kilogram of oil calculated at 13 shekels ($3.52), D’eiq said the ministry set a fair price guideline of 20 shekels, but did not set the price as a cap.

Market rates are expected to drive up the price of olive oil to 25 shekels ($6.77) per kilo, the minister said, quoting a forecast by the Palestinian Olive Oil Council.

On Thursday, D’eiq promised that the ministry would monitor olive presses day and night during the pressing season, and inspectors would carry out quality tests to make sure each press has met health and safety guidelines.

A statement issued by the ministry earlier suggested that a 20-shekel price would be set on the oil, and promised to purchase olive oil from farmers if there was a surplus as expected.

Earlier in the week, head of the olive oil council Nabih Ath-Thib told farmers that the minimum price was to be set at 25 shekels by the ministry.

After a winter of expected heavy rains the olive harvest was predicted to be healthy for 2010, despite concerns that a record-heat summer may have withered some of the fruit.

In 2009, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said 19,860 tons of olives were pressed, extracting 4,771 tons of olive oil. The harvest was a bad compared to the year before, when 17,584 tons of oil was extracted from 76,388 tons of olives.

The 2009 harvest came in 5,000 tons short of what Ath-Thib said at the time was an estimated 15,000 necessary for private and commercial use in Palestine.

Revenues were also low, with sales reaching $3 million in 2009, compared to $7.8 million in 2008.


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