With olive oil production in Syria expected to drop by 50% in the 2023/24 crop year, the government has banned exports in a bid to halt price rises, Olive Oil Times reported.

Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous announced the ban on olive oil exports, which took effect on 1 September, the 14 September report said.

According to data from the International Olive Council (IOC), Syria produced 134,000 tonnes of olive oil in 2022/23 and an average of 131,000 tonnes/year over the past five years. IOC data show that the country exported 15,000 tonnes in 2021/22 and 24,000 tonnes in 2022/23.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that the 2023/24 crop year was expected to produce just 49,000 tonnes of olive oil, Olive Oil Times wrote.

Abeer Johar, the director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s olive office, said the drop in production was due to a combination of many producers entering an ‘off-year’ in the natural alternate bearing cycle of the olive tree and the impacts of climate change.

According to a report published by the United Nations Population Fund in June, drought and flooding in northwest Syria – where the majority of the country’s olive oil is produced – were cited as two of the region’s most significant non-conflict-related challenges.

If forecasts were accurate, Syrian olive oil production would hardly cover domestic consumption, which the IOC estimated at around 100,000 tonnes in the previous two seasons, the report said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Johar, banning exports would limit further price rises for domestic consumers.

Olive oil retail prices in Syria vary significantly depending on the region. According to Selina Wamucii, a platform that connects farmers with consumers, olive oil retail prices in the country range from US$8.87-US$24.75/kg (€8.26-€23.05/kg).

The country’s economy had faltered significantly due to internal conflict and other macroeconomic factors and these relatively high prices put olive oil out of reach for many families, Olive Oil Times wrote.

According to official data quoted in the report, olive production benefits 20% of the Syrian population and olive groves comprise 11.5% of the country’s farmland delivering 28% of overall fruit production in the country.