Tunisian Olive Oil Production Falls to 23 Percent Below Five-Year Average

Low rainfall levels in the winter and spring, frequent heat waves and the unrelenting drought were attributed to the production drop.

By Daniel Dawson
Oct. 12, 2022 12:52 UTC

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in Tunisia is expected to reach 200,000 tons in the 2022/23 crop year, a decrease of 15 per­cent com­pared to last year, accord­ing to the coun­try’s National Olive Oil Board.

Last year, Tunisia pro­duced 240,000 tons of olive oil, accord­ing to the International Olive Council. Over the past half-decade, the North African coun­try has yielded an aver­age of 257,000 tons per annum.

Officials at the National Observatory of Agriculture (Onagri) blamed a lack of rain­fall in cen­tral and south­ern Tunisia, drought, heat­waves and many pro­duc­ers enter­ing an off-year’ in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree for the pro­duc­tion decrease.

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However, pro­duc­tion drops were not expe­ri­enced uni­formly across the coun­try’s main olive-grow­ing regions. While the major­ity expe­ri­enced pro­duc­tion declines, sev­eral enjoyed bumper crops.

This year, olive grow­ers in Sfax expect to har­vest about 70,000 tons of olives, sig­nif­i­cantly below the aver­age of pre­vi­ous years.

Meanwhile, in Monastir, offi­cials antic­i­pate the olive har­vest to be 65 per­cent lower than last year. Producers in the small coastal region of the coun­try located north of Sfax will pick 20,000 tons of olives which will pro­duce 4,000 tons of olive oil.

Mounira Gharbi Sahloul, an offi­cial at the Regional Commissariat for Agricultural Development, blamed the lack of rain in the win­ter and spring for the stark decline.

Like much of the rest of the Mediterranean basin, Tunisia is also expe­ri­enc­ing a severe drought. According to Onagri, reser­voirs are at 33 per­cent capac­ity on a national level.

In some of the largest olive-pro­duc­ing regions in the cen­ter of the coun­try, this fig­ure falls to just under 21 per­cent. Reservoir capac­ity in the north sits a bit higher at nearly 43 per­cent.

In west­ern Tunisia, olive grow­ers from Gafsa expect to har­vest about 50,000 tons of olives, which they would trans­form into 12,000 tons of olive oil, for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.

However, Abdel-Sattar Ghabtan, an offi­cial at the Regional Commissariat for Agricultural Development, said the har­vest would begin later than usual due to the lack of rain.

Meanwhile, grow­ers in Gabès, south of Sfax, antic­i­pate a sharp increase, with pro­duc­tion ris­ing to 60,000 tons of olives com­pared to 31,500 tons last year.

In Sidi Bouzid, directly west of Sfax, pro­duc­ers also expect a bumper crop. Growers esti­mate that olive pro­duc­tion will exceed 190,000 tons this year, an increase of 40,000 tons com­pared to last year.

In north­east­ern Tunisia, offi­cials in the region of Nabeul said they will har­vest 58,000 tons of olives this year, a 4‑percent increase from last year.

In north-cen­tral Tunisia, pro­duc­ers from La Manouba antic­i­pate this year’s olive har­vest to fall by 13 per­cent com­pared to last year. The small region will pro­duce 8,700 tons of olives, which is expected to yield 1,750 tons of olive oil.

Just to the north, in Bizerete, pro­duc­ers have pre­dicted a smaller har­vest as well and expect to pick 18,000 tons of olives, which is expected to yield 3,600 tons of olive oil. Last year, the region pro­duced 24,000 tons of olives.

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