`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.

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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