Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Wake of Gaza War, Palestinian Olive Oil in High Demand in UK

The Guardian, February 24, 2009 - In an unintended consequence of Israel's offensive in Gaza last month, sales of Palestinian olive oil in Britain are soaring, importers have said.

The devastating conflict, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed, has prompted a surge in demand for the product in apparent sympathy for the Palestinians. Equal Exchange, a seller of Fairtrade products, reported a threefold increase in sales of olive oil from the West Bank in January compared with a year ago.

"We have run out of one-litre bottles and we expect sales to double to 400 tonnes this year compared to 2008," said Barry Murdoch, the sales director of Equal Exchange.

The company Zaytoun, also established to sell Palestinian olive oil in the UK, reported a fourfold rise in sales last month instead of the usual post-Christmas lull. Zaytoun, established by two Britons, Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson, takes its name from the Arabic word for olive.

The surprise sales increases coincide with a publicity drive for Palestinian products during Fairtrade fortnight, which runs from 23 February to 8 March. Nasser Abufarha, the chairman of the Palestinian Fairtrade Association, is touring the UK to support the launch of the world's first Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil.

Winning Fairtrade certification is an important breakthrough for Palestinian oil producers, as they will now have access to mainstream British supermarkets such as Co-op, which has been working closely with Equal Exchange to get Palestinian products on to the shelves. Fairtrade also means better prices for olive growers.

"We have been working for the Fairtrade certificate for four years," said Abufarha, who has campaigned against the building of Israel's security barrier. "Fairtrade will increase our sales, and bring us new markets and widen our reach."....

....In terms of taste, Palestinian olive oil is a hit with foodies. The River Café is so impressed with Zaytoun olive oil that it wants to try other Zaytoun products, from olives to almonds. And the food and wine writer Malcom Gluck described Zaytoun as "one of the least aggressive yet pungently attractive olive oils I have tasted", and ranked it alongside the best of the fruity Sicilian, Cretan and northern Spanish oils.

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