Ample rainfall helped Tunisian producers this year

Following a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son last year result­ing in a pro­duc­tion of only 140,000 tons, the upcom­ing har­vest in Tunisia looks to be promis­ing.

Projected fig­ures are even sug­gest­ing a record yield. Recently the Tunisian min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, Samir Taieb, announced pre­dic­tions of a yield of 350,000 tons.

The cli­mate has been ideal with good rain­fall. This is good from both a qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive point of view.- Abdelmajid Mahjoub, Les Moulins Mahjoub

This would main­tain this North African coun­try’s posi­tion as one of the world’s top pro­duc­ers and per­haps even put it in sec­ond place. During the 2014/​2015 sea­son, Tunisia was the sec­ond largest pro­ducer after Spain with a record har­vest of 340,000 tons.

Over the past few years, Tunisia’s aver­age yield has amounted to 185,000 tons, a fig­ure the gov­ern­ment would like to boost to at least 230,000 tons a year. But dur­ing the last sea­son, pro­duc­tion had fallen to 140,000 tons, with 117,000 tons exported.

See more: 2019 Olive Harvest News

Tunisian olive oils have gained noto­ri­ety on the world stage for their qual­ity, earn­ing 17 awards at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The head of the Office National de l’Huile (ONH), Chokri Bayoudh, has said that the ONH has been exam­in­ing mea­sures to pro­vide sup­port in order to boost qual­ity and pro­duc­tion, thus improv­ing the mar­ket for exporters and pro­duc­ers.

The spo­radic rains over the past few months have been a bless­ing for many olive pro­duc­ers in Tunisia. Inadequate rain­fall is one of their biggest chal­lenges, but this year olive trees are thriv­ing and their branches are hang­ing heavy with dru­pes as sum­mer slowly makes way for autumn and the har­vest sea­son.

Selima Ben Hamouda of A&S, a sis­ter-duo run­ning an olive farm in Mateur in north Tunisia, 50 miles north­west of the cap­i­tal Tunis, told Olive Oil Times that the upcom­ing har­vest is sure to be a good one.

“We had rain in August, September and again at the begin­ning of October,” she said. “As a result, our olive trees are revived and this is ben­e­fi­cial for the upcom­ing har­vest. We’re expect­ing it to be much bet­ter than last year. We start har­vest­ing our Arbequina olives in November fol­lowed by our native Chetoui.”

Twenty-five miles fur­ther south­east in the region of Tebourba, Abdelmajid Mahjoub of Les Moulins Mahjoub is also expect­ing a bet­ter-than-aver­age har­vest.

“The cli­mate has been ideal with good rain­fall,” he said. “This is good from both a qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive point of view. Our olives haven’t changed color yet but soon they’ll be half green, half vio­let and ready to be picked by hand.”

“We start har­vest­ing around the mid­dle of November and this year it will be at the same time as usual,” he added. “We used to har­vest at the begin­ning of December but now we begin two weeks ear­lier because of the effects of cli­mate change.”

In Toukaber, 28 miles south­west of Tebourba, the land­scape of rolling hills is a lush green, a rare sight in October.


© Olive Oil Times | Data source: International Olive Council


“The aver­age annual rain­fall is about 400 mil­lime­ters (15.7 inches) but we’ve had 600 mil­lime­ters (23.6 inches) so far,” Meher Ben Ismail, of Réserve Familiale Ben Ismail, said. “Rain is of course very impor­tant for our olive trees, espe­cially since we don’t irri­gate and depend entirely on rain­fall. Temperatures have also been good lately and our trees are full of olives.”

“Our Chetoui olives are just start­ing to change color,” he added, refer­ring to the vari­etal grown here in the north and known for its intense char­ac­ter. “We fol­low the early har­vest method and usu­ally start har­vest­ing by the first of November, but this year it looks like we’ll begin at the end of October, so more or less at the usual time. Last year, we har­vested ear­lier because it was a very hot and dry sum­mer, but unfor­tu­nately the qual­ity was not great. Of course, the weather has a big influ­ence on qual­ity.”

Mounir Boussetta, of Domaine de Segermès in Zaghouan, an agri­cul­tural area 37 miles south of Tunis, described the Ministry of Agriculture’s pro­jected fig­ures for the upcom­ing har­vest as “very opti­mistic” but agrees that they should def­i­nitely be bet­ter than last year.

“In Tunisia, we tend to have a good har­vest every alter­nat­ing year,” he said. “It looks like the har­vest in our region is going to be a promis­ing one. My olives are not yet ripe, they’re still green at the moment and this is because of the rains we’ve had.”

“It looks like we’ll be ready to start pick­ing at the begin­ning of November,” he added. “It’s impor­tant to har­vest early and once that’s done, I start with prun­ing. That can’t wait too long. Usually I have a team of 100 work­ers hand-pick­ing the olives but this year I’ll be lucky if I can find 80. It’s get­ting more and more dif­fi­cult to find work­ers.”

However, as the annual har­vest is set to begin in Tunisia, not all pro­duc­ers are opti­mistic. Further south, in cen­tral Tunisia, an olive-grow­ing region where the Chemlali vari­ety dom­i­nates and the cli­mate is hot­ter and drier, Slim Fendri, of Domaine Fendri, does not have high expec­ta­tions.

“We’re not expect­ing a good har­vest in cen­tral Tunisia,” he said. “It will be aver­age at best. Last year was not a good year because of drought. Though there has been some rain in this region lately, it has­n’t been suf­fi­cient. We’re def­i­nitely feel­ing the effects of cli­mate change.”




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