Sfax, Capital of Arab Culture, Hosts First International Olive Oil Festival

The 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.

Nov. 28, 2016
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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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.

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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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