The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is lending €5 million to two olive oil companies in Tunisia to support the development and help boost bottled olive oil exports.
Borrowers, Sovena MENA and Tiba Foods, subsidiaries of Sovena Group, a Portuguese olive oil company, will use the bank’s funds to expand their sourcing of olive oil, which will deepen links with local farmers and mills and “the loan will contribute to increasing the production of bottled olive oil for export,” EBRD said in a press release.
Currently, most of the country’s production is exported in bulk, but exporters and officials agree Tunisia needs to export more olive oil in bottles, said the Financial Times. Bottling creates a value-added product that offers higher economic rewards and helps Tunisia build a brand.
Last year, demand for Tunisian olive oil rose to unprecedented levels. Exports reached 312,000 tons for the 2014-15 season, up from 45,000 tons in the 2013-14 season, according to data from the Oxford Business Group. Tunisia was the world’s second largest producer, yet, many consumers didn’t know when they were pouring the country’s olive oil.
Spain and Italy imported over half of Tunisia’s olive oil exports as they both witnessed poor olive harvests during the 2014-15 campaign. Once the Tunisian olive oil was within their borders, much of it was blended with the domestic supply and branded as being from the two European nations.
Building a brand by exporting more bottled olive oil is a challenge the industry is aiming to overcome, Abdel Salam al-Wadi, chairman of the Tunisian Olive Oil Association told the Financial Times last year. “We are proud to say that we are present in many markets, in the US, the Gulf and China and Japan. But we still need to create a profile for Tunisian olive oil,” he said.
Tunisia’s exports of bottled olive oil have grown over the past decade, reaching 20,000 tons last year, according to the Oxford Business Group, which said the aim is to export 50,000 tons by 2020. EBRD’s expects its investment to be a step forward.
EBRD is committed to fostering Tunisia’s olive oil industry and is becoming one of the largest supporters with its investment and policy dialogue, said Marie-Alexandra Veilleux-Laborie, EBRD office head in Tunisia. “After two projects in the olive oil sector in Tunisia, we are very proud to team up with Sovena Group to boost the production and export of Tunisian olive oil.”