IF YOU CAME to Tunisia from abroad, you will likely land at Carthage Airport in Tunis. If you are directed South, among the olive trees, you will find billboards promoting sunflower oil.
Tunisia is the second-largest producer of olive oil in the world, after the European Union, and is considered a rising star of the sector, but the policy of the government has focused only on boosting its olive oil abroad, while locals head toward cheaper oils to save their purchasing power. On Tunisian tables, refined seed oils have slowly been taking the place of olive oil, the only alimentary fat locals knew before.
This year, internal consumption of olive oil is estimated to fall at only 50,000 tons, or about 4.6 liters per person. The domestic use of olive oil amounts to a small percentage of the 260,000 tons expected from the current harvest.
Campaigns will be needed to buck the negative trend and inform Tunisian consumers about the health benefits of consuming the olive oil from their own back yard, and to bring olive oil back again to its important place in Tunisian diet, for sake of their health and cultural integrity.
It will only happen if an effort is supported by a strong political will. The next occasion could be the runoff of the presidential election that will be held on December 21. Who will win should not forget to put on his political agenda the efforts needed to increase the consumption of olive oil in Tunisia.
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