Olive oil .. the gift of Christmas in southern Lebanon

University student Hussein Hamdan converted a side room in his parents' house at the western edge of the town of Hasbaya, in eastern southern Lebanon, into a small factory to package and prepare olive oil to be marketed as gifts for Christmas as part of a small commercial enterprise that enables him to secure the installments of his university studies.

With all responsibility and imagination, the young man in his twenties prepares bottles of various sizes of virgin oil, wrapping them in paper rolls inspired by the glorious holidays, with a red cloth tie with Christmas accents.

Hamdan told Xinhua that "the devaluation of the Lebanese currency in light of the difficult economic situation with the outbreak of the Corona virus prompted me to secure the requirements for university studies, whose costs this year have increased by 3 times."

He explained that he had invested in olive oil because of the spread of olive groves in the south, and that the entire annual oil crop could not be disposed of, so that it would remain in storage until it was sold at prices below the production cost.

In turn, university student Sawsan Abu Al-Ezz used her 60-year-old mother to manufacture household soap from olive oil in one corner of her yard in the southern town of Ain Qunya.

While she was pouring the cooked soap liquid into wooden molds, Abu El-Ezz indicated to (Xinhua) that making home soap secured a profit that would help her pursue her university studies.

She added that she is keen to package the soap at a rate of only two soaps, in an orderly way, using Christmas strips.

She said, "I started decorating the soap bars by inserting pictures and slogans inspired by the occasion of the birthday, to become one of the special Eid gifts."

Sawsan Abu Al-Ezz explained that she has gained great confidence from customers, most of whom are housewives, who found the home soap to be of excellent quality.

For his part, student Jawdat Munther indicated to (Xinhua) that he took advantage of the olive season this year to preserve his oil in economic glass containers of various sizes to sell in popular markets at reasonable prices, after many citizens became unable to buy a plate of oil (16 kilograms) whose price exceeded 500,000 Lebanese pounds (about US $ 63).

The olive harvest season in southern Lebanon usually begins in the first week of October of each year, and extends for about two and a half months, and is considered one of the most important agricultural seasons, as between 170 to 200 thousand Lebanese families live from it.

According to statistics from agricultural cooperatives and the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon, olive production is about 200 thousand tons annually, as it ranks second in terms of economic return after apples and citrus fruits.

Lebanon suffers from a severe economic and livelihood deterioration in light of a difficult financial crisis coinciding with a lack of liquidity in foreign currency, restrictions on withdrawing deposits from banks and the collapse of the value of the Lebanese pound. This situation has led to an increase in unemployment, poverty, and a decline in the purchasing power of the Lebanese.


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