`Olive Oil is Losing its Place in the Tunisian Diet

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Olive Oil is Losing its Place in the Tunisian Diet

Dec. 9, 2014
Aldo Pesce

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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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