The Olive and the Olive oil in Lebanon

libano_mappaNowadays, olive trees culture covers 57.000 hectare of land (over 14 million olive trees), which represents 20% of the total cultivated area in Lebanon. 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.[1]

A study conducted by the IMOOPW[2] 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.

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[3] 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”[4], 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.

Contact person: Rania Boustany Hel Hayek, Agriculture Engineer

Master on Management and Quality Assurance

Ministry of Agriculture Lebanon, Agriculture Process Department

 Tel: +961 1 849 600

E-mail: rhayek@agriculture.gov.lb


[1] Agricultural Census, FAO – Ministry of Agriculture, 2000
[2] Integrated Waste Management for the  Olive Oil Pressing Industries In Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
[3] Integrated Waste Management for the  Olive Oil Pressing Industries In Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
[4] “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.