First Published: 2012-12-09

 

Instead of black gold, Libya turns to Mediterranean green gold

 

Libya eyes olive oil to compete with its North Africa neighbours, conquer European markets, diversify its hydrocarbon-dependent economy.

 

Middle East Online

By Youssef Ba – TRIPOLI

Libya ranks as world's 12th largest olive oil producer

Libya is turning to olive oil -- the green gold of the Mediterranean -- to compete with its North Africa neighbours, conquer European markets and diversify its hydrocarbon-dependent economy.

"Libya has decided to promote the quality of its olive production to make its olive oil more competitive and increase exports to Europe," an official of the export promotion centre in Tripoli said.

"The centre's new strategy involves all stakeholders in the production chain of the olive tree, particularly the private sector to boost its productivity and conquer foreign markets," said Taher al-Zweibek.

Libya ranks as the world's 12th largest olive oil producer, accounting for 0.25 percent of global production, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The North African nation lags well behind the world's top producer Spain (43 percent) and its regional neighbours Morocco (4th, 10.6 percent), Tunisia (6th, 4.4 percent) and Algeria (8th, 1.7 percent).

It has 8 million olive trees and produces 160,000 tons of olives for 32,000 tons of oil, according to figures provided by the country's agriculture ministry.

Libya, a desert country with an area of 1.76 million square kilometres (680,000 sq miles), has 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of arable land, just two percent of the total area of the country.

But the olive tree, a traditional crop of the Mediterranean region which easily tolerates spells of drought, is a perfect fit for the arid Libyan climate.

The North African nation is currently experimenting with a new kind of olive imported from Spain, the Arbequina, which is famous for its highly aromatic fruit, said agriculture ministry official Saad al-Kunni.

Introduced in Europe during the 17th century, this variety is mostly grown in Spanish Catalonia.

"After an experiment that yielded encouraging results, some 1,900 hectares were planted with this variety in two agricultural projects," added Kunni.

Libya, which relies exclusively on the export of hydrocarbons for its revenues, has failed to diversify its economy despite sectors with enormous potential for development such as tourism and fisheries.

Both the former regime of Moamer Gathafi, who was toppled and killed last year, and the new authorities have repeatedly expressed the desire to diversify Libya's revenues without implementing specific strategies.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Tripoli exhibition of Libyan dates and olives, Zweibek noted that the new strategy also focuses on improving the packaging of finished products to make them more attractive.

"A national label will be created and used to identify Libyan products in order to facilitate marketing while establishing a relationship of trust with the consumer," he said.

The new authorities, Zweibek added, are trying to break away from the policies of the Gathafi regime, during which bureaucracy prevented the promotion of any exports other than hydrocarbons.

Until now, the exportation of olive oil was the initiative of a few individual farmers and owners of olive presses.

Zweibek stressed that the state "will become more involved in assisting the whole production chain, from making the choice of which variety to plant to the transformation of the packaging process."

"The centre will also conduct studies on the European market and ensure the collection of data for the benefit of Libyan exporters to help them conquer these markets," he said.

 

Moroccans go to polls for local, regional elections

King Salman, President Obama gloss over differences

Washington 'monitoring' reports Russian military is in Syria

Drowned Syrian boy buried as Europe grapples with 'migrant' crisis

IS jihadists blow up tower tombs at Syria's Palmyra

UN stops aid to 229,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan

Bahrain says 5 soldiers killed in southern Saudi Arabia

2,200 Austrian drivers join campaign to pick up refugees in Budapest

More than 1,000 migrants walk their way to Austria

Hungary shuts main border crossing

22 UAE soldiers killed in Yemen

At least 30 migrants feared drowned off Libya

British PM mulls help for Syrian refugees

EU ministers to meet on escalating migrant crisis

Iran submits peace plan to Syria's Assad

Father of drowned Syrian boy tells story of fatal journey

US energy firm gets tough on stalled Israel gas deal

Iran objects to Kuwait linking it to 'terror cell'

Cameron won’t accept more refugees for now

Mideast wars cause 13 million school dropouts

Turkey arrests '4 traffickers' over migrant toddler's death

Egypt sentences dozens of alleged Islamists in mass trial

Netanyahu defiant after Obama secures Iran deal support

Family of drowned child repeatedly displaced in Syria

Erdogan lashes out at EU over Med 'migrant cemetery'

Britain to Cameron: Do more for refugees!

German asylum dream for Iraqis hard to fulfill

Iran’s Basij militia puts on show of strength in Tehran

Death toll in IS Yemen mosque attack rises to 32

UN urges Lebanon parliament to elect president

Syria, Yemen conflicts on Obama-King Salman talks

Suicide bombers hit Shiite mosque in Yemen capital: witnesses

Netanyahu threatens to shoot stone-throwers

David Petraeus: Use Al-Qaeda fighters to battle IS

White House wins enough Senate support for Iran deal

12 Syrian migrants die off Turkish coast

Car bomb kills 10 in Syria regime bastion Latakia

Saudi top cleric slams Iran prophet movie

Iran police to confiscate cars of 'poorly veiled' women

Libya's Tripoli authorities undecided on joining peace talks

Lebanon protesters escalate “You Stink” campaign

Turkey transfers British reporters to new jail

Two Yemeni Red Cross staff killed

Qatar to begin enforcing key labour reform law from November

Syria war takes its toll on heritage riches