Nablus, West Bank (March 21, 2013) — In less than two months, 500 tons of Palestinian olive oil have crossed the border into Israel – the first official shipments since the border was closed to olive oil during the Intifada over 10 years ago.
The landmark shipments were facilitated by the first ever joint policy commission of the Israeli and Palestinian Olive Oil Councils. Formed with support from the Near East Foundation and USAID through the “Olive Oil Without Borders” project, the commission has been meeting since October 2012 to find ways to remove obstacles to cross-border trade.
The result is a groundbreaking agreement that allowed cross-border trade of olive oil beginning in February 2013. The new trade agreement promises to have a dramatic, positive, and immediate economic impact in the Palestinian Territories. Olive oil is a major agricultural crop and source of income for Palestinians, who produce an average of 22,000 metric tons of the product each year.
The terms of the agreement allow Palestinian olive oil to cross into Israel in unlimited quantities, provided it meets quality standards and has a certificate of origin. In addition, Israeli citizens are allowed to carry and transport 100 liters of Palestinian olive oil across the border into Israel without any fees or taxes.
Since the Intifada, potential markets for Palestinian olive oil have decreased significantly – including the market in Israel, the most convenient and least costly export market for Palestinian products based in part on geography and consumer demand.
Historically, about 6,000 metric tons of Palestinian olive oil were sold annually inside Israel. In the last ten years, cross-border trade of olive oil has been reduced to about 1,000 metric tons, organized informally through communities affected by the partition. About 8,000 metric tons of surplus oil has accumulated annually – a considerable loss of income for Palestinians.
In the first week, Palestinian traders purchased more than 200 metric tons from farmers and mills in NEF partner communities to sell to Israeli bottlers and distributors.
The “Olive Oil Without Borders” project is a multi-year initiative funded by USAID and implemented by an NEF-led consortium to create opportunities for cross-border economic cooperation in the olive oil industry. Partners in this policy initiative include the Palestinian Center for Agriculture Research and Development (PCARD), the Israeli Crossing Authority, and the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture.
The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international NGO leading innovative social and economic development in the Middle East and Africa since 1915. For nearly 100 years, NEF has worked to empower citizens in disadvantaged, vulnerable communities. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to find grassroots solutions to their development challenges. NEF’s “knowledge, voice, and enterprise” approach is helping build more prosperous, inclusive communities throughout the region. To learn more visit www.neareast.org.
This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through theUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.