Rising Prices Expose Untapped Potential for Tunisian Exports

Rising olive oil prices at origins have seen Tunisian exports increase in value by one-third in the past year, even as volumes dipped.
Numidian tower rising above olive trees in Dougga, Tunisia
By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 22, 2022 15:07 UTC

Olive oil exports by vol­ume and value have risen in the first eight months of 2022, accord­ing to recently-pub­lished data from the National Observatory of Agriculture (Onagri).

From January to August, olive oil exports increased by one per­cent in vol­ume com­pared to the same period last year, up to 145,000 tons. However, the value increased by 33 per­cent due to a sig­nif­i­cant rise in olive oil prices per kilo­gram, from TND 8.09 (€2.66) to TND 10.66 (€3.51).

There are many agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, such as olive oil, toma­toes and dates, which still have untapped export poten­tial.- Houssem Eddine Chebbi, agri­cul­tural eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor, ESSEC

Since the begin­ning of the 2021/22 crop year, Tunisia has exported TND 1.9 bil­lion (€638 mil­lion) worth of olive oil, a 30-per­cent increase com­pared to the pre­vi­ous crop year despite the vol­ume of olive oil falling from 194,800 tons in the 2020/21 crop year to 184,000 tons.

According to Onagri, Tunisian olive oil exports sig­nif­i­cantly con­tribute to the coun­try’s trade bal­ance, act­ing some­what as a coun­ter­bal­ance to the 110-per­cent rise in veg­etable oil imports and the increase in imports of other sta­ples, such as sugar and cere­als.

See Also:Morrocan Olive Oil Exports Rise After Last Year’s Bumper Crop

International Olive Council trade data indi­cate that Tunisia has exported an aver­age of 218,000 tons of olive oil per year in the last five years, plac­ing the coun­try as one of the world’s largest exporters.

Tunisian olive oil pro­duc­tion has been gain­ing rel­e­vance for the econ­omy due to sig­nif­i­cant inter­na­tional trade agree­ments, most notably with the European Union. Those agree­ments have allowed the coun­try to sell olive oil to large and afflu­ent global mar­kets with min­i­mal tar­iffs.

A recent study pre­sented by the German Bertelsmann Stiftung foun­da­tion empha­sized the strate­gic rel­e­vance of trade rela­tions with the E.U. for the coun­try. Seventy-five per­cent of all Tunisian exports go to the E.U., and 50 per­cent of the coun­try’s over­all imports come from E.U. coun­tries.

According to the foundation’s report, the E.U. might play an even more promi­nent role in sus­tain­ing the Tunisian econ­omy.

Yet some Tunisian agri­cul­tural prod­ucts are sub­ject to E.U. trade restric­tions, which is why only 56,700 tons of its olive oil can be exported to Europe duty-free,” the report said.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Tunisia

For sev­eral years now, Tunisian author­i­ties have asked the European Commission to increase the quota of duty-free olive oil exports.

According to the report, the Russian inva­sion of Ukraine has put grow­ing pres­sure on the coun­try’s econ­omy, and the E.U. should take notice.

There are many agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, such as olive oil, toma­toes and dates, which still have untapped export poten­tial,” said Houssem Eddine Chebbi, an author of the report and pro­fes­sor of agri­cul­tural eco­nom­ics at the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales in Tunis.

Tunisia has a num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties for fur­ther increas­ing its prod­uct range and export vol­umes in the European mar­ket,” he added, and should engage in talks with the European bloc and increase export quo­tas for strate­gic prod­ucts such as olive oil.”

This would have a pos­i­tive impact on the national econ­omy and con­se­quently the coun­try’s sta­bil­ity,” Eddine Chebbi con­cluded.


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