Fairtrade olive oil launched to help Palestinians

By staff writers
February 18, 2009
Fairtrade Olive Oil

A pioneering British company is marking Fairtrade Fortnight (23 Feb – 8 March) with the launch of the first ever Fairtrade-certified Olive Oil and Olives, direct from Palestinian farms.

UK business Zaytoun CIC, a Community Interest Company, created a market for Palestinian olive oil in 2004, importing the products direct from farming communities, and is launching a Fairtrade-certified range in the British marketplace this week.

The oils and olives, which are also Soil Association certified, are now available nationally from a wide range of health food shops, delicatessens, and online stores including the Ethical Superstore.

Zaytoun Olive Oil is described by wine and food writer Malcolm Gluck as: “One of the least aggressive yet pungently attractive olive oils I have tasted. It is in the rich nourishing class of the best of the fruity Sicilian, Cretan, and northern Spanish oils and its beautiful green cloudiness bespeaks of care and judicious handling.”

Founders of Zaytoun, Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson, join the farmers in Palestine every year to help them bring home the olive harvest. All of Zaytoun’s Fairtrade olive oil is made from organically grown fruit, extra virgin and first cold pressed. The name ‘Zaytoun’ is taken from the Arabic word for olive.

Palestine, the land where olive oil cultivation began, is the first and only country to be exporting olive oil and olives carrying the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) mark. The olive tree and its produce are of key cultural and economic importance to Palestinian people, and the soil and climate produce some of the world’s highest quality olive oil.

Zaytoun CIC is offering small-scale farmers, often working under extremely difficult conditions, not only a fair price and a chance to expand and improve their production, but also the opportunity to sustain a livelihood with dignity and security. Zaytoun is committed to making a tangible difference, maintaining close links with producers, working to organise volunteer teams to help out with the harvest every year and ensuring that proceeds from sales here in the UK are directed where they are needed most.

Four members of the Zaytoun farming community will be travelling from Palestine to Britain during Fairtrade Fortnight) to speak at a number of events and tastings across the UK, talking about their lives and the importance of Zaytoun olive oil to their livelihoods.

Heather Masoud, co-founder of Zaytoun CIC says the company expects the UK market to welcome such a high quality, ethically produced product: “The oil in many ways speaks for itself. As well as being green and peppery, many of those who taste it describe it as ‘warm’ – a word that can also be used to describe the people who grow this unique product. We’re very proud to be bringing the first ever Fairtrade Olive Oil to the UK, as we know that the UK consumer is now well aware of the importance of buying Fairtrade products, knowing that not only have they been ethically produced without exploitation, but they’ll also be top quality products that exceed the all important taste test.”

Abu Suleiman, one of the Zaytoun Palestinian farmers producing the oil says he and his colleagues are delighted that their oil will be available in the UK: “The olive trees root and anchor us in our land, provide a sense of belonging, home and hope, investing in olive oil is investing in our future.”

You can get fairtrade olive oil from the Ethical Superstore here

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