Tunisian Olive Oil Industry Reaches New Heights

The Tunisian olive oil is flourishing after the Europe's decision to waive taxes on Tunisian oil imports and grant substantial financial help to the country.

Dec. 15, 2016
By Reda Atoui

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The Tunisian olive oil sec­tor is flour­ish­ing and show­cas­ing stag­ger­ing growth notably due to the European Union’s deci­sion to waive taxes on Tunisian oil imports and grant sub­stan­tial finan­cial help to the coun­try. The sec­tor is also ben­e­fit­ing from the global, ever-grow­ing demand.

Exceptional times call for excep­tional mea­sures.- Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative

The EU mea­sure on Tunisian olive oil imports fol­lowed the ter­ror attack on the beach resort of Sousse last year, which left thirty-eight peo­ple dead. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s for­eign pol­icy chief, jus­ti­fied the deci­sion, stat­ing: Exceptional times call for excep­tional mea­sures.”
See Also: More Articles on Tunisia
Tunisia remains one of the Europe’s most impor­tant allies in the Arab world, strate­gi­cally speak­ing, and even more so since the Jasmine Revolution. The civil resis­tance move­ment that started on December 17, 2010 after Muhammad Bouazizi, a veg­eta­bles and fruit itin­er­ant seller who set him­self on fire after local author­i­ties con­fis­cated his cart and abused him ver­bally and phys­i­cally, quickly snow­balled into a big­ger rev­o­lu­tion which led to the oust­ing of then-pres­i­dent Zine El Abidine Ben Ali twenty-eight days later.

The coun­try has since been tran­si­tion­ing to a democ­racy through struc­tural changes. Such events greatly affected the nation’s econ­omy and geopol­i­tics and the European Union has remained vig­i­lant over Tunisia’s evo­lu­tion.

Moreover, the ter­ror attack of Sousse and another that hit the Bardo Museum of Tunis have severely impacted Tunisia’s tourism sec­tor, mak­ing the coun­try even more depen­dent on olive oil exports. The ter­ror­ist threat in North Africa has been increas­ing in the past few years, wor­ry­ing Tunisia’s eco­nomic part­ners even more.

The EU seeks to make it a priv­i­leged part­ner in the Arab world with hopes that it will help sta­bi­lize the coun­try. As a result, the European Union eased restric­tions on Tunisian olive oil imports since last spring.

Thirty-five thou­sand tons of Tunisian olive oil have been exported to the European Union in the past two years, tax-free and bil­lions have been spent by the EU since the Jasmine Revolution in order to boost the Tunisian econ­omy; the finan­cial help might reach €300 mil­lion per year soon.

Nearly three per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion works in the olive oil sec­tor, a whop­ping fig­ure that shows Tunisia’s strong depen­dence on oil exports. The EU mea­sure rep­re­sents a golden oppor­tu­nity for Tunisian grow­ers, but a direct threat to their European coun­ter­parts.

Many Italian olive grow­ers have been vocal about their oppo­si­tion to the EU’s finan­cial moves, a para­dox­i­cal stance con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of firms that make high prof­its blend­ing Tunisian olive oil with their own and label­ing it Made in Italy.”

Tunisia’s olive oil econ­omy is boom­ing to unprece­dented lev­els. It exported 20,000 tons of olive oil in 2015 com­pared to just 400 tons ten years ago, a gleam­ing trend that shows no sign of slow­ing down.

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