In July our Chair Susan Ralphs made her first visit to Palestine with Managing Director Manal Ramadan White. Here she reflects on the journey, and what she learned about Zaytoun’s special supply chains, built up over the last 20 years.
The purpose of our trip was for me to meet as many of the farmers, producers and organisations as possible in order to see and appreciate the whole supply chain behind Zaytoun’s range of products. So we travelled through many parts of Palestine and I got to see beautiful olive groves and date farms as well as sophisticated processors and packers.
Behind Zaytoun’s lovely maftoul is the extraordinary Al Ibdaa Women’s co-operative. Here we watched women skilfully and quickly roll maftoul by hand using a traditional method learned from their mothers. This co-operative, which produces other products too such as delicious pickled cucumbers, is run by and for women. It was great to see them taking on all the roles from leadership to production line.
Enabling the women of Al Ibdaa to reach consumers in the UK is the impressive Canaan, a company buying products via the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA), and which processes our olive oil, almonds and grains prior to export. We were shown round by Nasser Abufarha, the founder, and his son. Canaan’s sophisticated set-up is the hub through which Zaytoun can access the products of many excellent small-scale community producers. Canaan has a purpose built, state-of-the-art factory and makes a big contribution to the local economy, with about 50 people employed full-time, and even more in the harvest season.
What struck me was the level of investment that had been made into Canaan in spite of the fragile political situation. Palestinians are working so hard, making big investments in their companies, their communities and their future.
This evidence of a modern, well-funded operation was reinforced in Jericho. There, we visited Nakheel, the company which supplies 80% of our dates. Originally set up as a family business, it has since attracted investment to provide the latest technology to enable higher quality processing of Medjoul dates.
“These people are absolutely passionate about their country, and have an unwavering faith that investing now will bear fruit in the future.”
This impression of significant investment was repeated at Pal Gardens, another of our date suppliers. We had a discussion over lunch with Momen who owns the company. I asked him what prompted him to invest so much in his business when the future is so uncertain. His response epitomised just how resilient and determined our suppliers have to be. These people are absolutely passionate about their country, and have an unwavering faith that investing now will bear fruit in the future.
I was both impressed by what I saw, and so inspired. There are risk-taking investors putting significant sums into manufacturing and processing within Palestine.
Each of the producers we met emphasised the importance of the export market to their communities and expressed their strong commitment to continue working with us on growing the market in the UK for their wonderful products!