Tunisia Asks Europe to Increase Duty-Free Imports

The head of Tunisia's National Olive Oil Board has formally requested that Brussels nearly double existing duty-free olive oil import quotas to 100,000 tons per year.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jun. 30, 2020 13:10 UTC

The chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Tunisia’s National Olive Oil Board (ONH) has asked the European Union to increase its duty-free olive oil import quota from the North African coun­try to 100,000 tons.

Currently, E.U. importers can bring up to 56,700 tons into the 27-mem­ber trad­ing bloc with­out pay­ing tar­iffs, but Chokri Bayoudh argues that this is not enough and said it is time to update the 20-year-old agree­ment.

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Local author­i­ties have already tried in recent years to mod­ify the agree­ment, but to no avail. Tunisia pro­duced 300,000 tons of olive oil dur­ing the 2019 har­vest, accord­ing to esti­mates from the International Olive Council, the third high­est pro­duc­tion total on record.

In spite of the cur­rent trade restric­tions with the world’s largest mar­ket for olive oil and tur­moil caused by the Covid-19 pan­demic, Tunisia’s olive oil exports have expe­ri­enced sub­stan­tial growth in 2020.

Bayoudh said that in the last seven months, exports have exceeded 232,000 tons, worth TND 1.4 bil­lion ($490 mil­lion). He added that dur­ing the peak of the out­break in Europe, trade vol­umes grew even more than before, reach­ing 45,000 tons per month.

Bayoudh attrib­uted this increase to the good qual­ity of olive oil that Tunisians pro­duced in 2019, point­ing to the plen­ti­ful inter­na­tional awards that the country’s pro­duc­ers have raked in.

Demand from the United States, the world’s third largest con­sumer of olive oil, has also helped to drive exports. According to fig­ures from the United States Department of Commerce, Tunisia now sup­plies the U.S. with 15 per­cent of its olive oil.

While no offi­cial response has come yet from Brussels, evi­dence of the E.U. budg­ing from its cur­rent posi­tion is scant. A few months ago, just before the Covid-19 out­break in Europe, offi­cials had turned down a sim­i­lar request.

Within Europe’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ing nations, a fierce out­cry has also come from grow­ers and pro­duc­ers seek­ing insu­la­tion from per­sis­tently low olive oil prices

With these con­cerns at the fore­front of many agri­cul­tural min­is­ters’ minds, an increase in cheap Tunisian imports are more than likely to face strong oppo­si­tion through­out the trad­ing bloc.


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