In Lebanon, olive trees culture covers 57,000 hectare of land (over 14 million olive trees), which represents 20% of the total cultivated area, and 43% of the area of permanent crops (1).
The annual production of olives differs enormously from one year to the other.
It varies between 50,000 tons for a bad season to 190,000 tons for a good crop year.
One third of the quantity is used for table olive consumption, whereas the rest is used to produce olive oil.
Lebanon produces between 6000 tons and 16000 tons of oil depending on the production years.(2)
(1)Agriculture Census, FAO-Ministry of Agriculture, 2010
(2) Agricultural Census, FAO – Ministry of Agriculture, 2000
Distribution of Olive trees
A study conducted by the IMOOPW (3)
project in 2005 showed that Lebanon has 492 olive mills;
87% of them use traditional pressing techniques, whereas 10% use 3-phase system and 3% use 2-phase system mills.
(3) Integrated Waste Management for the Olive Oil Pressing Industries In Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
The majority of the mills (45.73%) are located in North Lebanon, followed by Mount Lebanon (17.48%) and South Lebanon (16.67%), Nabatieh (15.45%) and Bekaa (4.675%).
Most of the oil that comes from these mills is produced using traditional methods of cultivation and pressing, handed down from generation to generation, although more modern methods have also been gradually introduced in recent years.
Although the positive attributes of olive oil sensory analysis (fruitiness, bitterness and pungency) are stronger in oils extracted by the continuous system (2 phase and 3 phase systems), the tasting experiments done (4) revealed that at least half of the Lebanese population recognizes and prefers the taste of the oils produced by the traditional system (pressing) of extraction. The other half prefers the taste of a 3 phase processed olive oil to the taste of a two phase one which is in phase with the international trend.
The Lebanese olive oil produced from the main variety "SOURY" (5) , has a high range of phenolic compounds and natural antioxidants as well as a high level of oleic acid, which makes it one of the most stable olive oils.
(4) Integrated Waste Management for the Olive Oil Pressing Industries In Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
(5) "Soury" is the name of a local variety of olives. It was named after "Sour" or "Tyr", the famous Phoenician city and trading port in South Lebanon where it originated.