Zaytoun Fairtrade olive oil: the story, from harvest to shelf

February 27, 2018 6:47 am Published by Leave your thoughts

At Naturally Good Food we stock Zaytoun Fairtrade olive oil. From the Palestinian Territories – perhaps the region of the world most in need of a fair solution – this product is absolutely delicious, as well as a real draw for those looking for ethical purchases. Today, we’re following the story of this oil,  from harvest to shelf, and from there, to our customers. Why do we stock it? What makes it ‘fair’?

We take a look at the story behind Zaytoun olive oil

Zaytoun olive oil: the first Fairtrade olive oil in the world

The world’s first Fairtrade olive oil

Zaytoun was founded in 2004, with the aim of creating a UK market for Palestinian artisanal produce. In one of the very poorest areas of the world, and one where aid can be a political hot potato, trade offers a real and sustainable solution.

Olive oil was Zaytoun’s first venture. It was funded by hundreds of UK customers who put up money before receiving oil, in a social enterprise. The company produced the world’s very first Fairtrade olive oil, in 2009.

From tree to table

There are a number of producers of olive oil for Zaytoun. We’re following the story of Mohammad Irsheid, the youngest of nine children from a farming family in Siir, a small village about 18 km south of Jenin. Mohammad and his family own 300 square km of olive groves, which can produce up to 9 tonnes of olive oil.

With plenty of sun, olives fare well in the Palestinian Territories

The region is well-suited to olive growing

Mohammad’s olives are grown organically, on stone terraces set into hills that soak up the sun. They’re watered by the rain and picked by hand, by workers who’ve grown up with the trees and think of them almost as members of their own family – knowing well their value for themselves and their children.

The olives are pressed on the day of picking. The produce is then sold, through the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA), to Canaan Fair Trade, who in turn sell it to fair trade organisations worldwide.

What’s the benefit?

Fairtrade provides a steady, fair price. In 2006, the price of olive oil was 10 shekels per kg (£1.70). After joining the PFTA, Mohammad was able to command a price of 18 shekels (£3.06) per kg. In addition, the Siir farmers (as a co-operative group) have received a Fairtrade premium, which has been put towards building a public bathroom and a large storage room for the village.

Mohammad explained the benefit to him:

‘Fairtrade has had a big impact on my life in all sorts of ways. First of all, I started receiving higher prices, and that made a huge difference to our family’s farming income, about 20,000 shekels (£3,400) difference per year. I stopped worrying about searching for local traders that would take my olive oil with conditions and at low prices. Now it all goes to one buyer and we get paid during the harvest, instead of waiting months to sell all our produce. We are now our own masters.

Seeing the many benefits, my family and I started to invest more in the land, spending the extra income received through Fairtrade to rehabilitate about 20 dunums of land, and planting it with olive trees. From this additional land we produced an additional 1-2 tonnes of olive oil. From that extra income, we bought new land which we planted with almond trees. In short, Fairtrade made farming viable for us as Palestinian farmers.’

The olives are pressed as soon as they are picked

Mohammad’s olive trees can produce up to 9 tonnes of olive oil

Get involved

In an increasingly interconnected world, Mohammad’s life isn’t as remote as it may at first appear. Buying Zaytoun olive oil directly supports people like Mohammad and makes life there just a little more fair.

There are other ways to get involved, too. Hoping to bridge the gap between consumers and producers, Zaytoun run two trips a year for customers to visit the area and learn more about farming life out there. They also bring producers to the UK once a year, for Fairtrade Fortnight.

Buy Zaytoun from Naturally Good Food

Click here to see our Zaytoun olive oil. We also stock Zaytoun’s Medjoul dates (aka the tastiest dates in the world) and their Za-atar thyme herb mix. They’re all delicious – and as good for the world as they are to taste.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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