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The Lebanese olive harvest has been hit by conflict and extreme weather patterns, Olive Oil Times wrote.

According to International Olive Council (IOC) estimates published in November, Lebanon was expected to produce 18,000 tonnes of olive oil in the current crop year, in line with the five-year average.

However, adverse weather conditions – heightened by climate change – had led many local producers to estimate a considerably lower final volume, the 19 February report said.

According to local media outlet Murr Television, yields have dropped from 120 litres/m² to less than 20 litres/m² in certain regions of the country.

The escalation of tensions along the southern border with Israel had compounded the challenges faced by olive oil producers, Olive Oil Times wrote.

Since the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel, there had been near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli Defence Force and Hezbollah, a Shiite militant organisation that controls southern Lebanon, which opposes the state of Israel.

The conflict had severely disrupted the Lebanese olive harvest, an earlier Olive Oil Times report on 23 December said.

According to figures from Lebanon’s Ministry of Agriculture, at least 386 fires caused by Israeli bombings have destroyed 50,000 olive trees.

The charity Save the Children estimated that about 47,000 olive trees had been destroyed in the conflict and some 86,000 people had been displaced from southern Lebanon due to the conflict, leaving olive trees unharvested.

Despite these challenges, demand for Lebanese olive oil has increased internationally, according to the report.

However, the rise in demand had contributed to higher prices, making it increasingly unaffordable for local consumers, particularly amid Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis, Olive Oil Times wrote.

Prices had already risen before the war due to the scarcity of olives and rising energy costs, producers were quoted as saying in the report.

According to the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture’s figures, the country’s olive sector comprises more than 110,000 olive growers and about 200,000 plots with 12M trees. The country’s farmers’ union has estimated that 20%-30% of national production comes from southern Lebanon.

The olive sector is important in Lebanon, not only economically but also culturally, with more than half the trees over 500 years old, according to at least one estimate reported by Olive Oil Times.