Workers add freshly harvested olives to a press at a mill in the village of Didde. AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EID
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Oweis' comments were reiterated by Antoine Howayek, head of the Lebanese Farmers' Association, who said that Lebanon is not protected against foreign imports of olive oil."We should put an end to the smuggling taking place from Syria and other countries in a bid to protect the sector," Howayek said.He added that farmers in some areas in Lebanon such as Kfeir rely solely on the production of olives and olive oil for a living and smuggling has caused 80 percent of people in such areas to immigrate.According to statistics provided by the Lebanese Farmers' Association, there exist 59,000 hectares of land in Lebanon producing around 75,000 tons of olives. Figures from Lebanese Customs show that in 2016 Lebanon imported a total of 2,894 tons, mostly from Syria, while it exported 10,013 tons.According to a study done by Blominvest Bank on challenges facing olive oil in Lebanon, the country's inability to compete with other countries in this area has driven merchants and bottlers to mix lower-priced imported oil with Lebanese oil to reduce its cost and sell it domestically and internationally.
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