Report: Climate Change Will Dramatically Reduce Tunisian Olive Oil Production

The National Observatory for Agriculture estimated that olive oil production may decrease by up to 70 percent if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate.
By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 7, 2022 09:01 UTC

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in Tunisia may fall by 70 per­cent com­pared to the 1981 to 2010 aver­age by the end of the cen­tury, a report from the country’s National Observatory for Agriculture found.

Agricultural offi­cials in Tunisia worry that the unmit­i­gated effects of cli­mate change, includ­ing rapidly ris­ing green­house gas emis­sions, could bring the annual aver­age pro­duc­tion down to 61,000 tons.

By com­par­i­son, Tunisia pro­duced 240,000 tons of olive oil in the 2021/22 crop year, seven per­cent below the rolling five-year aver­age.

See Also:EBRD Provides New Funds for Olive Growing and Irrigation Projects in Tunisia

However, the report also found that annual pro­duc­tion may fall to just 149,000 tons each year in a sce­nario where appro­pri­ate cli­mate pol­icy allowed CO2 con­cen­tra­tions to remain at a lower level.

The offi­cials wrote annual olive pro­duc­tion was likely to be neg­a­tively affected by bien­nial mild win­ters in all regions of the coun­try. They warned that trees were unlikely to receive the nec­es­sary 300 to 600 chill hours to enable ver­nal­iza­tion.

A sig­nif­i­cant increase in heat­wave days in south­ern and west­ern Tunisia is also pre­dicted to lower olive pro­duc­tion and force new olive groves to be planted far­ther north. Although, the offi­cials also pre­dicted that the north and cen­ter-east of the coun­try would also face fre­quent water deficits.

Indeed, by 2100, the areas suit­able for olive grow­ing would decrease by an aver­age of 14 per­cent for the RCP8.5 [worst case] sce­nario and by an aver­age of five per­cent for the RCP4.5 [best case] sce­nario,” the offi­cials wrote.

However, the offi­cials acknowl­edged that their pre­dic­tions do not take into account the tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment that may take place in the sec­tor or the abil­ity of olive grow­ers to use new pro­duc­tion meth­ods allow­ing them to increase their yields.

Despite the tem­pered opti­mism offered by the report, the offi­cials warned that Tunisia’s olive oil exports are likely to decrease sig­nif­i­cantly, which would upset the country’s trade bal­ance

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Tunisia exported $502 mil­lion (€459 mil­lion) of olive oil in 2019, the last year for which data are avail­able. Olive oil exports rep­re­sented slightly more than three per­cent of the country’s exports that year. Olive oil remains Tunisia’s lead­ing agri­cul­tural export.


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