` Tunisia Eyes China for Share of Emerging Olive Oil Market - Olive Oil Times

Tunisia Eyes China for Share of Emerging Olive Oil Market

Jan. 3, 2011
Tom Baker

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In early December 2010, a num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Chinese media vis­ited Tunisia. The Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries stated that this was part of a pro­mo­tional cam­paign to raise aware­ness of Tunisian olive oil for the Chinese mar­ket. The visit coin­cided with Tunisia’s pick­ing sea­son and Chinese del­e­gates were invited to wit­ness the pro­duc­tion process first hand, to learn more about the vari­eties Tunisia has to offer, and to expe­ri­ence tast­ing its olive oils.

Early reports sug­gest that the visit was a suc­cess. In a state­ment pub­lished by Tunisian news agency TAP, the Chinese del­e­ga­tion is said to have been impressed both by Tunisia’s progress in pro­duc­tion meth­ods and in the qual­ity of the olive oil.

This move comes as part of an over­ar­ch­ing strat­egy to ele­vate the posi­tion of Tunisian olive oil on the world stage. Tunisia is one of the world’s lead­ing pro­duc­ers of olive oil, but his­tor­i­cally a large per­cent­age has been sold in bulk to pro­duc­ers based in other coun­tries. BusinessNews.com.tn notes that in the first ten months of 2010, Tunisia exported 100,000 tons of olive oil while only 7,500 tons of this was packaged. 

Most believe the key to the future suc­cess of the Tunisian oil indus­try will be to close this gap and to focus on the qual­ity rather than quan­tity of the olive oil on offer.

This will be an impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for the com­ing year, par­tic­u­larly as the pro­duc­tion of Tunisian olive oil in 2010/2011 is esti­mated to be between 110 and 120 thou­sand tons, down from 160 thou­sand tons last year. In order to com­bat losses, the Tunisian indus­try plans to draw on reserves from the 2008/2009 season. 

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The coun­try is esti­mated to have 25,000 tons in stocks, which will then be used to raise exports for the cur­rent sea­son to roughly 150 thou­sand tons.

Tunisian pro­duc­ers will be pleased that the Chinese media rec­og­nized the qual­ity of its olive oil, as this is one of the key areas in which it can hope to stand out above its Spanish and Italian competitors.

Earlier last year, Lemia Thabet, of the Tunisia Technical Packaging Centre, a com­pany work­ing on the brand­ing and pack­ag­ing of Tunisian olive oil, told the BBC:

We face a big hur­dle because of the grip Italy has on the mar­ket, but we can say that our bot­tled oil is 100% Tunisian and that counts for a lot in spe­cialty shops. This is some­thing Italy can­not always guarantee.”

Tunisia also faces hur­dles with regard to the pack­ag­ing of its prod­ucts. As of 2010, the major­ity of its bot­tles and stop­pers were being pur­chased directly from Italy, adding fur­ther to the cost of pro­duc­tion. Production issues aside, empha­sis on authen­tic­ity and on its long his­tory in the olive oil indus­try may hold the key to rais­ing Tunisia’s sta­tus against com­pet­ing producers.

Tunisia has an excel­lent prod­uct on its hands and if man­aged cor­rectly indus­try experts say it stands a very good chance of com­pet­ing in emerg­ing markets.

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