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Increasing competitiveness of Lebanese olive oil and promises for a quantum leap in the dairy sector

2-4-2014

The Ministry of industry and UNIDO organised last week, in collaboration with the Ministries of Agriculture, Economy and Trade, a workshop under the auspices of Minister Hajj Hassan on "Strengthening Food Safety and the competitiveness of Lebanese olive oil".  The event was held in Beirut and started with a presentation by the Director General of the Ministry of Industry, Dani Gedeon, who outlined the objectives of the workshop. Participants then split into two round tables which discussed 2 topics: "Strengthening food safety" and "increasing the competitiveness of olive oil".  The first round table reviewed the current legal, legislative and institutional support, how to support private institutions, and financing mechanisms.  Lecturers included Toufic Rizk, the dean of the Faculty of science at Saint Joseph University, Fadi Fayyad, the senior business advisor at Euro-Lebanese Centre for Industrial Modernsation (ElCIM), and Khater Bou Habib, the chairman and General Manager of Kafalat.   
Participants in the second round table discussed improving olive oil quality, reviewed legislations related to olive oil, and explored ways for promoting and marketing of olive oil both internally and externally.  Speakers in the second round table included Hussein Hoteit, Tamim Takesh, and Yussef Fares.  
A concluding session was held at the end of day one during which speakers Khatib, Rizk and Hoteit shared the results of the round tables discussions and the points suggested by participants as recommendations. During that session, Hajj Hassan noted in his concluding statement that there is a need for strong coordination and collaboration between the Ministries of Industry, Agriculture, Economy and Health and so as to operationalise the training on food safety and speed up intervention strategies.  He noted that such interventions should target small and medium enterprises as well as big institutions.  With regards to the issue of Lebanese olive oil,, Hajj Hassan added that the work still needed to develop the quality of olive oil is not so big because as a lot has already been done.  He noted that addressing the problem of olive oil marketing resides in finding cooperative federation so as to gather and market olive oil collectively.  
On a related vein, Hajj Hassan reassured the Lebanese citizens during his meeting with the Lebanese Council of dairy producers that what was disclosed in the crisis related to the usage of natamycin in certain dairy products has been addressed and  the factories which were using it have stopped using it.  He added that Lebanon's dairy production remains of good quality and a number of measures will be adopted to ensure food safety especially in the dairy production sector.  He also added that the Council's members who represent 80% of the producers is committed to do an unprecedented quantum leap in the sector which will be announced soon. .  
For his part, Minister of Labour, Sejaan Azzi referred during a consultative meeting organised by the Beirut Chamber of Beirut and Mount Lebanon and focusing on the NSSF, to recent media campaign about the use of natamycin by Dairy Khoury and Dairy Day companies.  He considered that the problem was not accurately described by the media.  The President of the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Chamber Mohammad Chokeir noted that it would have been better for Ministries to undertake the necessary scientific tests before denouncing the companies and jeopardising people's livelihoods.  He hoped that Ministries which were at fault would eventually apologise to those companies negatively affected by the media campaign.
Source: Al-Diyar, Al-Mustaqbal, Al-Safir, Al-Mustaqbal 1 April 2014

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