Raising the profile of Tunisian olive oil

Raising the profile of Tunisian olive oil

2017/24/11 - Under this motto, a high-level conference was held on November 17 in Tunisia, which highlighted the importance of using innovation and technology to transform the olive oil industry in the African country, one of the world's leading producers of olive oil.

The event, organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), drew around 80 industry players from Tunisia, Morocco and Europe to discuss the latest trends and advances in the field.

“We are delighted to see how public-private dialogue is leading towards consensus building among industry stakeholders and the development of a shared vision and roadmap. This helps stimulate investment to create a stronger, more competitive sector,” said Antoine Sallé de Chou, Head of the EBRD’s offices in Tunisia.

It must be noted that the EBRD and FAO, along with Tunisia’s Office National d’Huile, have been supporting this process for several years.

Upgrading operations

During the conference, guest speakers shared their knowledge on orchard management practices, intensive olive farming and improved irrigation techniques. Participants also discussed innovations in extraction technologies to produce and preserve high quality extra virgin olive oil.

A roundtable led by Tunisian and international olive oil producers deepened the conversation around the importance of quality in a commercial strategy. In fact, some leading producers of Tunisian organic olive oils have invested heavily in modernizing their operations, installing advanced irrigation systems aimed at higher stability and quality, and a two-phase extraction system.

There was also a round table about innovation in extraction technologies to produce and guarantee high-quality extra virgin olive oil, as well as innovation and communication in the olive sector, offered by the editor and CEO of Mercacei, Juan A. Peñamil Alba.

Tunisia's Olive Sector

This conference highlighted that developing the range and profile of products offered is also important for the future of Tunisia’s olive oil industry. Organizers said that by creating extra virgin olive oils with diverse profiles, such as oils with different tastes, single varieties or those richer in polyphenols, Tunisian producers can reach new consumers.

Regarding to the FAO, Tunisia also produces three times more certified organic olive oil than Spain each year. An even larger volume of Tunisian olive oil is produced using organic or nearly organic practices without actually being certified. Given the growing demand for organic products -the US organic market was valued at 30 billion euro in 2015- Tunisia could strengthen its market position by building on its reputation for organic farming.

Going forward

Cooperation and communication are vital in any industry. FAO and the EBRD will continue to support a working group of Tunisian olive growers, olive oil processors, exporters, government officials and trade union representatives.

The working group has met seven times since 2015, sharing information, experiences and opinions and making concrete proposals for a stronger and more inclusive olive oil sector.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen a great deal of enthusiasm for the sector and an increasing openness to new ideas, such as the creation of a quality consortium and quality labels for Tunisian extra virgin olive oils,” said Lisa Paglietti, an FAO economist and team leader. “There’s a real willingness to change.”

“Moving forward, we need to keep this momentum and ensure that all industry stakeholders are invested in working together to achieve the twin objectives of competitiveness and recognition,” she added.

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