Tunisia Sees Opportunity in Organic Production

Ninety-five percent of Tunisia’s olive groves are tended using traditional practices without the use of any pesticides.

Dec. 12, 2017
By Isabel Putinja

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Tunisia’s olive oil indus­try is increas­ingly turn­ing its focus to the devel­op­ment of organic processes and the mar­ket­ing of its organic olive oils as a strat­egy to increase exports. 

A gov­ern­ment offi­cial con­firmed a national strat­egy to pro­mote Tunisia as a pro­ducer of organic prod­ucts to the world. 

What we want to show is that Tunisia is an organic coun­try. This is the model we want to show to the world,” said Samia Maamer, spokesper­son for the Ministry of Agriculture, on a France 24 news broadcast. 

Tunisia already seems to be lead­ing the way when it comes to the export of its organic agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Tunisia pro­duces three times more cer­ti­fied organic olive oil than Spain. And Tunisia is the sec­ond largest exporter of organic prod­ucts in Africa. 

Ninety-five per­cent of Tunisia’s olive groves are tended using tra­di­tional prac­tices and with­out the use of any pes­ti­cides but many pro­duc­ers fol­low­ing organic prac­tices are not yet cer­ti­fied, most likely because of the costs and effort required.
See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Tunisia
The pro­duc­tion of organic olive oil in Tunisia increased rapidly in the past 10 years: from 670 tonnes in 2004 to 60,000 tonnes in 2015; while exports rose from 2,100 tonnes in 2004 to 13,500 tonnes in 2015. 

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Meanwhile, in 15 years the value of the export of Tunisian organic prod­ucts has increased expo­nen­tially from 2 mil­lion to €200 mil­lion Euros, pro­vid­ing much needed for­eign revenue. 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and (FAO) have been part­ner­ing with Tunisia’s Office National d’Huile for sev­eral years to improve the qual­ity, effi­ciency and com­pet­i­tive­ness of the Tunisian olive industry. 

More Tunisian pro­duc­ers are look­ing to improve the qual­ity and effi­ciency of pro­duc­tion processes by invest­ing in upgrad­ing equip­ment and installing irri­ga­tion sys­tems, while olive mills are being updated with a two-phase extrac­tion sys­tem. Over 100 olive mills in Tunisia are cer­ti­fied organic and the coun­try has sev­eral labs for chem­i­cal and sen­sory test­ing rec­og­nized by the International Olive Council (IOC).

At the same time, organic pro­duc­ers from Tunisia are gain­ing recog­ni­tion by win­ning awards at inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions like the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) and BIOL, an inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Italy ded­i­cated to organic olive oil. 

A pro­mo­tional film in French released by the min­istry of agri­cul­ture ear­lier this year called Tunisie; la terre du bio” (Tunisia: An Organic Land) show­cases the coun­try’s grow­ing organic indus­try and the growth in the exports of its products.

At the launch of the film, the min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, Samir Taïeb, said that organic agri­cul­ture in Tunisia is a cul­ture that has a reached a point where it can posi­tion itself at the inter­na­tional level and con­quer new mar­kets while pro­mot­ing the coun­try as a whole. 

Taïeb also revealed that Tunisia has over 3,300 organic pro­duc­ers in dif­fer­ent sec­tors who export 50,000 tonnes of organic prod­ucts annu­ally to 60 countries.

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