Earlier this month, Sfax Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIS) orga­nized the first International Festival of the Olive Oil to link Tunisian olive oil exporters with inter­na­tional buy­ers and importers. The fes­ti­val was attended by 115 importers from 11 coun­tries, includ­ing Russia, Canada, USA, UK, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, India, Portugal and France. One hun­dred buy­ers were from China.

Russia is a promis­ing new mar­ket for Tunisian olive oil; with a new ship­ping line from Sfax to the Russian port of Novorossiysk mak­ing trans­porta­tion faster. The new Sfax to Russia ship­ping line began oper­a­tions on November 2 and will run fort­nightly. Tunisian exporters will ben­e­fit from a 33-per­cent dis­count when trans­port­ing food prod­ucts.

Ridha Fourati, the pres­i­dent of CCIS, high­lighted the good rep­u­ta­tion of Tunisian olive oil. He said the organization’s aim was to pro­mote Tunisian olive oil through its unique his­tory, vari­eties and high qual­ity. The fes­ti­val show­cased an exhi­bi­tion of olive oil prod­ucts and dis­played dif­fer­ent stages of olive oil pro­duc­tion from col­lec­tion, and pro­cess­ing to pack­ag­ing and export.

Omar Béhi, sec­re­tary of state for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion touched on incon­sis­tency in Tunisian olive oil. He said efforts were needed to improve the yield, qual­ity and pack­ag­ing. Béhi spoke of the Tunisian government’s com­mit­ment to regen­er­ate olive groves and develop higher yields. The Tunisian gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to plant­ing 10 mil­lion new olive trees.

Tunisia’s olive har­vest for the 2016 – 2017 sea­son is expected to be 20 per­cent down on the 2015 – 2016 sea­son accord­ing to the Agriculture, Fishery and Water resources Ministry.

Tunisia’s sec­ond largest city, Sfax, was named the 2016 Capital of Arab Culture. Sfax was nom­i­nated by ALECSO (the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation) a Tunis-based orga­ni­za­tion founded in 1970. ALECSO has 22 mem­ber states. Sfax is the sec­ond Tunisian city to become The Capital of Arab Culture. In 1997, Tunis held the title.

“Culture unites us and brings us together” is Sfax’s cho­sen theme. Houda Kchaou, one of the event coor­di­na­tors said, “The aim of this event is both sym­bolic and his­toric, is also to pro­mote tourism and encour­age invest­ment in the coun­try.”

The event kicked off last sum­mer with the launch of hot air bal­loons and a flotilla of small boats fly­ing the flags of par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries. Delegations from 12 Arab coun­tries attended the open­ing cer­e­mony. Throughout the year over 1,000 guests from the Arab world are expected to descend on Sfax for con­fer­ences and meet­ings. Sfax ends its reign as Capital of Arab cul­ture on March 17, 2017.

Sfaxians hope to see part of the bud­get ear­marked for the asso­ci­ated events directed at solv­ing the city’s pol­lu­tion prob­lem and mod­ern­iz­ing Sfax’s infra­struc­ture. Sfax is a major indus­trial city where a mod­ern metrop­o­lis has sprung up around the tra­di­tional med­ina (old city).

The orga­niz­ers of the event were accused of cor­rup­tion and squan­der­ing pub­lic funds. The exec­u­tive com­mit­tee strongly denied the accu­sa­tions and pledged to present the full bud­get and finan­cial trans­ac­tions at a press con­fer­ence.


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