(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AJLOUN — It is olive season in Jordan and the green areas in the north of the Kingdom are witnessing a busy harvest period. In the village of Anjara, west of Ajloun, farmer Ahmad Al Syouf picks olives with the help of his children.
'This year is worse than the previous ones since the flesh of the olives are producing a less amount of oil," Syouf told The Jordan Times recently, claiming that the lack of rain has resulted in the land becoming dry where the fruit did not grow enough to produce a sufficient amount of oil.
'The production of olive oil is low because the people started picking the fruit earlier than in previous years,' farmer Ammar Bani Salman, told The Jordan Times recently, noting that the fruit should only be picked when completely fresh.
He said that in previous years, there was a lower amount of olive fruits but the production of oil was still higher due to rain. However, farmers tend to hurry in picking the fruits even though the ones who do it later will have higher oil quality.
'They do not care about the quality as much as selling their oil," Bani Salman told The Jordan Times.
"With a good rain, an olive fruit contains 36 per cent oil with the rest being water, but it usually ranges between 18 per cent to 24," explained Sameer Al Fawaz, an olive press owner.
With 50 kilogrammes of olives, only 16 kg of olive oil are produced.
Bani Salman processes the olives he picks in the olive press run by Fawaz.
'We work on a regular basis from late November until January or February, but this year, we expect to finish by mid-December,' the olive press owner told The Jordan Times.
'The factory takes 10 per cent of the olive oil production of each farmer, but does not charge money for the service," Fawaz explained.
'I have tried all the olive presses in Ajloun and this is the best one because of the quality of the oil and the customer service," Bani Salman said.
To facilitate the production, Fawaz has introduced some improvements in his press such as wooden pallets where the farmers lay their sacks and imported machines that have sped upthe process and improved the quality of the oil production.
The factory currently employs 15 workers in three production lines. The farmers are present during the whole production process of their harvest, from the cleaning of the fruits through the washing, the smashing, the blending and the post production stages.
Some farmers stay at the factory from early morning until midnight as the entire process for a small amount of olives takes up to two hours through what Bani Salman explained to be a "cold processing system".
'The cold system is better because the oil is tastier and preferred by the customers," the farmer said.
At Bait Al Maqdis, all parts of the olive fruits are utilised: the dough produced from the smashed olive fruits is used for heating and the leaves as animal fodder.
'The olive tree is a holy tree, so you can use all of it," the olive press owner stressed.
This has proven beneficial for the environment and the local economy, as three to four tonnes of dough could warm a house throughout the whole winter while the leaves have replaced other animal fodder, saving large amounts of money for local farmers.
Ajloun trees are especially fertile since almost 60 per cent of the total crops are being harvested this season, while the percentage in other oil producing areas such as Jerash and Irbid is lower, explained Syouf.
Outside the factory, many customers are parking, coming from all over Jordan and other parts of the region, according to Fawaz, who said they receive clients from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, among others.
The olive press, which does not have a shipping service, only sells at the factory venue. 'We do not need any marketing strategies because the oil sells itself," the owner noted.
'Ajlouni oil is the best," Moaayad Al Khatib, a customer, claimed.
After the harvest, the farmers immediately start tilling the soil for the next season, earnestly waiting for the much-delayed rain to ensure another successful olive season.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, the total area planted with olives in Jordan stands at 1.26 million dunums, constituting 77 per cent of the Kingdom's area planted with fruit trees. Figures for the current season estimate the total amount of olives at 252,000 tonnes, of which 50,000 tonnes are expected to be used for pickling and the rest to produce some 36,000 tonnes of olive oil.