Daily Archives: September 26, 2013

  • Palestine's First Fair Trade Olive Oil Industry

    Among the 650 olive trees within the terraced groves of Mahmoud’s Samara’s West Bank farm are some Rumi olive trees, a variety that has been cultivated in Palestine since Roman times. These particular trees have been passed down through generations of the Samara family, producing an olive oil that is full and pungent while providing the family with an important source of income.

    But, at the turn of the 21st century, during the second intifada, olive oil prices in the local market fell as low as eight NIS (about $1.75) per kilogram, bringing in less money than it cost to harvest. In addition, Samara says neighboring settlers were uprooting some of his Rumi trees and replanting them in Israel, claiming them as their own. While the agricultural sector’s contribution to the Palestinian GDP continued to drop, and the olive trees—an important symbol of Palestinian culture—were uprooted, it became increasingly difficult for Palestinian farmers to sustain a livelihood. Many left their lands.

    So when Nasser Abufarha, founder of the Palestinian Fair Trade Association (PFTA) and Canaan Fair Trade, approached Samara in 2004 offering him double the market price for his olive oil, Samara thought he was joking. He wasn’t. Samara sold his olive oil to Canaan Fair Trade for 16 NIS per kilogram when the market was offering him only eight NIS, and he became one of the first of 375 farmers in 13 village-based cooperatives to join the PFTA and Canaan Fair Trade in 2005.

    Although formed in partnership, the PFTA and Canaan Fair Trade are distinct organizations that collaborate to promote marginalized and isolated Palestinian farming communities.

    The PFTA is a non-profit that organizes Palestinian farmers into cooperatives, educating them on the concept of fair trade and organic produce, environmental accountability, and how to integrate new farming techniques into traditional methods so that they can increase the quality and yield of their product. Canaan, on the other hand, empowers small-scale farmers by virtue of being a commercial entity that produces, processes, packages, and exports Palestinian fair trade and organic foods to like-minded companies abroad.

    On entering the global market in 2005, however, Canaan found that it needed to create its own international fair trade olive oil standards; surprisingly, none yet existed. Following the models of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization International (FLO), Abufarha drew up his own fair trade olive oil standards. This move led Canaan to eventually become the first ever FLO-certified international supplier of fair trade olive oil. Today, Canaan is the largest supplier of fair trade olive oil in the world.

    “The whole idea of bringing the farmers into the modern economy is that it brings international awareness to the struggles that Palestinian farmers [experience],” Abufarha said.

    Even in the portion of the West Bank over which the Palestinian Authority (PA) allegedly maintains civil and military control, and where the majority of Canaan’s 49 current cooperatives exist, water management projects proposed by the PA must first, under article 40 of the 1995 Oslo Peace agreement, be approved by Israeli authorities.

    Since few proposed Palestinian water resource systems have received permits from the Israeli authorities, the number of Palestinian wells in the West Bank has declined from 774 in 1967 to 328 in 2005. Many farmers must rely on un-permitted wells to irrigate their crops. Samara, for instance, provides 30 different farming families with water from his un-permitted well. He says every day he fears it will be demolished.

    The Israeli government also creates difficulties for Canaan’s exportation of goods—every shipment costs around $1,000 extra because Canaan must comply with Israeli security requirements. Although products are shipped out of the country from the port city of Haifa in northern Israel, Canaan must travel out of the way to a checkpoint where their produce can be scanned, hire a second truck outside of the checkpoint to deliver their produce to port, and then employ the Israeli company, UTI Logistics, to ship the produce abroad.

    Even with all of these obstacles, the PFTA and Canaan Fair Trade give Palestinian farmers and their communities a glimmer of hope. In Canaan’s impact report, farmer Saleh Ayasi said, “I have great pride that my Palestinian product is reaching all over the world. Some people may not know about Palestine, but my product raises the spirit of Palestine. Canaan’s products make a name for Palestine.” In a way, Canaan Fair Trade gives Palestinian farmers the chance to promote the culture they feel Israel has appropriated from them.

    Now, nine years after its inception, the PFTA has grown to include approximately 1,700 small-scale Palestinian farmers in 49 West Bank cooperatives, including six women’s cooperatives, whose members collect and process sun-dried tomatoes, za’atar (thyme), couscous, capers, and soap.

    With the support of both the men and women’s cooperatives, Canaan today sources a variety of fair trade certified and organic olive oils, herbs, tapenades, dried foods, spices, spreads, and cosmetics to distributors in 15 different countries across five different continents. The social premium included in the price for Canaan’s products is reinvested into the farmers’ communities—used for community contributions such as farming equipment, paving village roads, and buying computers for schools.

    Today, Canaan rakes in 22 NIS per kilogram of olive oil for Samara. Rather than keep the money in his pocket, Samara plans to buy more land—and more trees. “The olive trees are like my children,” he said. “If anybody offers me 10,000 NIS to uproot one tree I would say no. Even 100,000. Here, in our traditions, the farmer doesn’t leave his trees until he dies.”

    Article source: Pulitzer Center

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    Among the 650 olive trees within the terraced groves of Mahmoud’s Samara’s West Bank farm are some Rumi olive trees, a variety that has been cultivated in Palestine since Roman times. These particular trees have been passed down through generations of the Samara family,... 
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  • Gov. signs off on Wolk's olive oil commission

    SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown Tuesday established a state commission to help coordinate state growers and manufacturers to strengthen the competitiveness of the rapidly growing olive oil industry.

    Brown signed a measure by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, to establish the commission.

    “Establishing this commission is a vital first step toward protecting consumers and providing California’s olive oil industry a fair playing field where they can grow and thrive. That’s why this bill received bipartisan support from day one,” said Wolk, chairwoman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products. “I applaud the Governor’s decision to sign this measure into law, and look forward to continuing to work with the state’s olive growers and olive oil producers to help ensure that Californians can be confident about the products they’re serving to their families.”

    SB 250 would create the Olive Oil Commission of California within the Department of Food and Agriculture to allow the industry to conduct research and establish product grades and standards through the Secretary of Food and Agriculture.

    There are currently 16 active, industry-funded agricultural commissions in California created to enhance their industries competitiveness through promotion, advertising, education, marketing research, scientific research, and the creation and regulation of quality standards.

    SB 250 is part of Wolk’s ongoing effort to address challenges facing state’s expanding olive oil industry, including competitors selling fraudulent and low-quality olive oil.

    A study conducted by the UC Davis Olive Center found that 65 percent of imported extra-virgin olive oils bought off the shelves of California supermarkets failed to meet international standards for olive oil quality — concluding that many of the imported olive oils tested were falsely labeled as extra virgin grade.

    “Similar commissions have been very effective in advancing research and quality standards. SB 250 is an important step for the industry,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center.

    “The COOC is delighted to hear the news of the signing of Senate Bill 250 by Governor Brown,” said Patricia Darragh, Executive Director of the California Olive Oil Council, one of SB 250’s supporters. “As the industry grows, our long standing commitment to quality and standards becomes a critical issue for consumers and retailers in the marketplace. Kudos to State Senator Lois Wolk for her vision and support of the California olive industry.”

    “Governor Brown has done a tremendous service for all those who enjoy the health benefits and culinary enhancement of world class extra virgin olive oil produced in California by signing SB 250 into law today. Thanks to the Governor’s actions and the tireless work of Senator Wolk to establish the Olive Oil Commission of California, consumers of California olive oil everywhere can continue to trust the exceptional quality of extra virgin olive oil produced there,” said Kimberly Houlding, Executive Director of The American Olive Oil Producers Association.

    dailydemocrat

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    SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown Tuesday established a state commission to help coordinate state growers and manufacturers to strengthen the competitiveness of the rapidly growing olive oil industry. Brown signed a measure by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, to establish the... 
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  • How something so mundane becomes so gourmet

    Olives face a reputation issue in America.

    We usually can find only two or perhaps three varieties in our stores: Common green, pimento or onion stuffed; canned blacks from California; and perhaps a costly Greek variety in brine, such as Kalamata.

    This hardly represents the olive world.

    Black olives are green olives left on the tree. Shiny black olives usually canned are picked green, cured with lye (no kidding) and oxygenated to speed up the ripening to black. They’re slick and squeak when bitten, not entirely appetizing.

    Kalamatas, in oil, are the eye-openers to the potential of olives. They’re strong, but their flavor holds up in cooking. Pit and chop some into your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe.

    You’ll find scores of other olive types, ranging from the wrinkled, peppery Gaeta packed with herbs, from Italy, to the subtle, fragrant Nicoise, the brown beauty from France.

    In this company, green olives stuffed with pimentos seem mundane. You can end that easily:

    • Marinade a jar of large, pitted green olives overnight in a mixture of a clove of pressed garlic, 1/2 cup white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove the pimentos, chop and mix them with cream cheese. Stuff the olives and serve with toothpicks. It’s a vast improvement, and you save about $8 over store-bought.

    • For cooking, go for dry-cured instead of the usual brine and vinegar varieties. They’re cured in salt, which dehydrates them and wrinkles their skin, like dried prunes. This concentrates the olive flavor, perfect for even a four-hour stew. The California blacks are mild compared to the more robust Moroccans.

    Once you’ve laid in a supply of olives, try the why-not cuisine genre. Why not use them in anything that sounds good?

    • In cold dishes, olives add bursts of flavor instead of an overall seasoning. Try slices in pasta or potato salad. Try some in your favorite white-bread recipe. Mince some black olives and add to your stuffing for roast turkey or chicken.

    Olives marry well with wild and white rice.

    • In warm dishes, olives offer more seasoning power and become less tart. Chop and add to scrambled eggs. Before baking your next meatloaf, cut it in half, stuff with olives and feta cheese, and replace the top. Be prepared for familial shock.

    Olives cut the acid edge of tomato sauce. Simmer a quarter cup of diced Kalamatas or dry-cured in a quart of sauce. They add a more complex flavor.

    OLIVE TAPENADE
    ◾1 pound assorted green and black olives
    ◾2 cloves garlic, peeled
    ◾3 T capers
    ◾2 T fresh parsley
    ◾4 T olive oil, extra virgin
    ◾2 anchovy fillets (optional)

    Pit the olives and place all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Chop until mixed but not pureed. It should be a coarse spread. Keep in a covered glass jar with a layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation.

    wickedlocal/Jim-Hillibish

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    Olives face a reputation issue in America. We usually can find only two or perhaps three varieties in our stores: Common green, pimento or onion stuffed; canned blacks from California; and perhaps a costly Greek variety in brine, such as Kalamata. This hardly represents the olive... 
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