An Algerian farmer has won international recognition for his organically produced olive oil, having won both the Extra Virgin Early Harvest category in the Dubai Olive Oil Competition in February and winning silver at the Japan Olive Oil Prize in May.
Hakim Alileche, who left a successful career as a graphic designer before moving to the Algerian countryside, told AP that "These honours really reassured us because it means we were right."
"I started planting them bit by bit from 2005. I like farming and I've been fond of olive trees since I was little," he said. "In Algeria, it's a sacred tree."
He is said to have chosen the Ain Oussea plateau due to its cheap land and water supply. Alileche's farm, some 40 hectares (100 acres) has over 15,000 olive trees, with 9,000 currently producing. Pressing organic olive oil "puts me right into this mood of respect and protection for the planet," he explained.
To learn about production methods, he visited several other olive oil manufacturing countries including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, France and Italy. Using a mill acquired from Tuscany in Italy, Alileche says he crushes the olives the same day they are picked, to avoid oxidising, he also picks them earlier than the annual harvest which starts around mid-November.