Workers add the paste of freshly harvested olives to a press. AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EID
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The nearby Hasbani River looks murky and darkened, its water stagnating in a still pool. Olive oil producers living in its proximity know all too well that the work they take pride in is also one of the main causes of the river's sorry state.A study measuring the Hasbani's water quality conducted by the Beirut Arab University in 2013 found high levels of acidity in the water attributable to olive oil wastewater, as well as high pesticide levels.Miled Riyachi, of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, a government entity, explained that oil made with three-phase separating decanters – such as the ones used by most Lebanese producers – is different from the one made with the two-phase separating decanters that are widely used in Europe.Producing a product similar to the European one would also make Lebanese oil lose its advantage in the national market and open up competition with European brands.However, a strong competition on the market was coming from Syrian oil.Exports of Lebanese olive oil have been on an upward trend, including of extra virgin olive oil.
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