SYRIA: Turkey continues theft of Cafrin’s olive oil

CAFRIN, Syria / ANKARA — Turkish authorities ruling occupied Cafrin (Afrin) in northwestern Syria have been preventing farmers of from selling their products outside the areas under Turkish control, according to local sources. Reportedly, farmers are only permitted to sell their products locally or export them to Turkey.

Many farmers in Cafrin have also complained about being forced to sell their olive products to merchants associated with the Turkish-backed local authorities at drastically reduced prices.

The sources also indicate that the local merchants, after buying the harvest from farmers, sell it to companies inside Cafrin city, namely the Jalkhy Company, Ghosn Afrin, and Mount Afrin, who in turn export the oil to Turkey.

After invading the previously stable region in January 2018, Turkey soon opened the border crossing in Hatay conjunction with the olive harvest season later that year.

Turkey has been accused by international observers, including members of Spanish parliament, of illegally passing off the stolen olive oil as being produced in Turkey.

The Turkish government has admitted as much.

According to Duvar, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that olives and olive oil from Syria were “re-exported” through Turkey.

“The revenue from the sale is distributed to landowners. So there’s no theft or anything here,” he said.

During a parliamentary session in late 2019, a question was asked by opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Güzelmansur about the amount of olive oil imported to Turkey from Cafrin.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry refused to answer on the grounds that the information requested was a “trade secret”.

Güzelmansur stated that the Syrian olive oil flooding the market, pushing down prices and causing significant hardship to Turkish producer.

“According to Turkish Statistical Institute’s 2019 Foreign Trade Data, $44.5 million dollars worth of olive oil was imported from Afrin,” Güzelmansur said. “As a result, the price of domestic olive oil dropped to 3-4 Turkish lira per litre.”