Tunisian Olive Oil Production Down 55 Percent

Tunisia's drop in olive oil production is a further blow to the North African country which is already suffering an ailing economy, social unrest and security concerns.

Sfax, Tunisia
Jan. 11, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi
Sfax, Tunisia

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As the Tunisian olive oil sea­son draws to a close, Chokri Bayoudh, CEO of the National Oil Office (OHN) esti­mated the total pro­duc­tion of olive oil from the 2016/2017 sea­son will be 100,000 tons — a drop of 55 per­cent from Tunisia’s annual aver­age of 180,000 tons and lower than 2015 pre­dic­tions of 140,000 tons. 

Exports of Tunisian olive oil from this sea­son are esti­mated at 70,000 tons. 15,000 tons were exported from November to mid-December.
See Also: Complete Coverage of the 2016 Olive Harvest
Tunisia’s decline in olive oil pro­duc­tion marks the country’s depar­ture from its 2014/2015 rank­ing as the world’s sec­ond largest olive oil pro­ducer — a record-break­ing sea­son with yields esti­mated at between 280,000 to 300,000 tons and a four-fold increase over the pre­vi­ous year.

The drop in olive oil pro­duc­tion is another blow to the North African coun­try which is suf­fer­ing from an ail­ing econ­omy, social unrest and secu­rity con­cerns. In 2015, Tunisia’s tourism sec­tor was severely hit by ter­ror­ist attacks and the coun­try was handed a life­line in the form of an EU deal that autho­rized duty-free imports of Tunisian olive oil. 

Bayoudh attrib­uted the decline in Tunisia’s olive oil pro­duc­tion to the drought which gripped Tunisia dur­ing 2016.The coun­try expe­ri­enced one of its dri­est sum­mers on record with a 28 per­cent decrease in rain­fall com­pared to 2015. The drought resulted in failed crops and agri­cul­tural losses amount­ing to £700 million. 

The gov­ern­ment was accused of giv­ing tourist areas and afflu­ent parts of the cap­i­tal pri­or­ity for water and fail­ing to main­tain the water sys­tem. People in many parts of Tunisia suf­fered lengthy cuts to their water sup­plies and the country’s cen­tral agri­cul­tural dis­tricts were left to wither. 

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Olives were not the only vic­tims of Tunisia’s 2016 water short­age. In July, then Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, Saad Seddik declared that some Tunisians were liv­ing below the water poverty line.”

Alaa Marzouki from Watchtower, the Tunisian citizen’s water obser­va­tory, claimed, The state has not put in place the nec­es­sary strate­gies.” He esti­mated that 10 to 30 per­cent of the country’s water leaked from dilap­i­dated pipes. 

Faycal Tebbini who heads the Farmers Voice Political Party believes about five bil­lion cubic meters of water which could be diverted for farm­ing and res­i­den­tial use flows into the sea annu­ally and 30 per­cent of reser­voir water seeps from dam­aged pipes. 

Tunisia’s water short­age fueled social ten­sions and evoked calls for a thirst upris­ing.” In September, Tunisia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs called on peo­ple to pray for rain.” 

Tunisia’s prayers for pre­cip­i­ta­tion were answered by tor­ren­tial down­pours in September and October which brought parts of Tunisia to a stand­still. Several lives were lost in the floods and sub­stan­tial dam­age occurred. 

Bayoudh is opti­mistic that this winter’s heavy rain­fall will help Tunisia’s olive oil pro­duc­tion return to its national aver­age for the 2017/2018 sea­son. He also high­lighted the fact that exports of pack­aged olive oil have increased from 2,000 tons ten years ago to 20,000 tons today. 

When ques­tioned over the higher prices domes­tic con­sumers are pay­ing for olive oil, Bayoudh blamed the drop in domes­tic pro­duc­tion and the increased amounts of olive oil being exported. 

Around 80 per­cent of Tunisia’s olive goes to exports. 

In 2009, the World Bank issued a warn­ing that Tunisia was likely to face a water resource risk. The World Resources Institute also pre­dicted that Tunisia will become one of the 33 most-water-stressed coun­tries in 2040. Tunisia has nine new reser­voirs and desali­na­tion plants in the pipeline.



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