Since 2011, Equal Exchange has carried organic olive oil from Palestinian farmers. West Bank families produce this special oil from olive trees that have been passed down from generation to generation. We’re pleased to be able to work with the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) an NGO that helps to organize and assist farmers in order to test their oil’s quality, bottle it, and bring the product to market.
But true partnerships must weather ups and downs. In October and November 2018, the annual olive harvest in the West Bank was the smallest in over a decade. This was due to a number of factors such as climate change-induced drought and the presence of olive flies. Some farmers had yields as low as 20% of normal, causing great economic hardship.
Agriculture has always been a risky business. If you’re an independent small-scale farmer, a bad season or two can shut you down. That’s why Equal Exchange acts in solidarity with our partners in 20 countries around the world — including PARC — by providing pre-harvest financing, paying higher than the fair trade minimum price, and being as consistent and transparent as we can. We do all this with your support!
Because of the poor harvest and lower total yields in the West Bank, less olive oil hit the threshold of Extra Virgin this year, so we weren’t able to buy as much as in years past. And as is always the case with supply and demand, when supply is cut, prices go up. Despite these challenges, we’re proud to have been able to pay olive farmers more this year.
What’s the difference between Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Because of the limited supply of Organic Extra Virgin olive oil, Equal Exchange is offering a brand new product — Organic Virgin Olive Oil — at a slightly lower retail price.
But what’s the difference? Extra Virgin olive oil is the highest grade of virgin. It contains no more than 0.8% free acidity. Organic Virgin olive oil, in comparison, has a free acidity that ranges from 0.8-2.0%. Both kinds of olive oil we buy from PARC are 100% certified organic. Both grades are unrefined, derived from the olive fruit by cold mechanical extraction (“cold-pressed”) without fillers or chemicals. Both can be used the same way — cooked or uncooked. Let us know if you can even taste the difference!
PARC is a leading Palestinian non-profit involved in rural development and women’s empowerment. It works with cooperatives and reaches more than 6,000 members. Our work with PARC fits with the larger Equal Exchange mission of providing assistance to small-scale farmers around the world so they can run businesses that help to sustain their families. PARC offers these farmers an important economic opportunity, since markets for their goods are severely restricted due to the occupation.
This summer, we’re expanding the range of products from PARC that we carry. Starting this July, look for packages of maftoul, freekeh, za’atar, and dates, all sourced from small-scale farmers in the West Bank.
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