Tunisian olive oil companies will export at least 70,000 tons of bottled product every year starting in 2025.
This is the rosy forecast of the country’s exporters, who sent 27,000 tons of packaged olive oil abroad in 2020.
According to the president of the Tunisian Chamber of olive oil exporters, Chihab Ben Slama, local producers are poised to benefit from the growing worldwide demand.
“In the last three decades, consumption of olive oil in the world has doubled and it tripled in non-producing countries, as it happened in China and Southeast Asia,” Ben Slama said, citing figures published by the International Olive Council.
During a teleconference with Chinese importers, Ben Slama noted that Tunisia accounts for seven percent of the worldwide olive oil production.
Olive oil exports represent six percent of the country’s exports and 45 percent of the exported agricultural goods.
Ben Slama cited logistical challenges and bureaucratic hurdles as some of the reasons Tunisian olive oil exports to China are currently not reaching their potential.
During the meeting, Chinese importers highlighted trade figures for the last decade, which revealed a slide in Tunisian olive oil imports from 1,300 tons in 2012 and 2013 to just 100 tons in 2019.
According to Ben Slama, though, there is room for growth in all markets. While the European Union sits as the major importer of Tunisian olive oil, local exporters look to other countries as well.
“79 percent of our [olive oil] exports are directed to Europe, 16 percent to the United States and 3 percent to Asia,” the president of the Chamber noted.
The relevance of the olive oil sector within the country’s economy has grown for years. The National Olive Oil Board (ONH) has noted that in the last few months Tunisian olive oil exports have reached record highs.
And the Tunisian Agricultural Observatory (ONAGRI) has reported that, in 2019, olive oil was the most exported Tunisian product to the United States.
According to those numbers, 79.6 percent of Tunisian food exports to the U.S. was olive oil. That trend was confirmed in 2020 placing Tunisia as the third-largest olive oil exporter to the States after Spain and Italy.