`Tunisian Producers Anticipate Production Rebound Despite Heat, Drought - Olive Oil Times

Tunisian Producers Anticipate Production Rebound Despite Heat, Drought

By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 3, 2023 15:23 UTC

State and indus­try sources sug­gest Tunisian olive oil pro­duc­tion could rebound to 220,000 tons in the 2023/24 crop year.

The upcom­ing olive har­vest is expected to yield pos­i­tive results, despite chal­leng­ing weather con­di­tions and low rain­fall,” Abdelaziz Makhloufi, the founder and chief exec­u­tive of the largest olive oil pro­ducer in the coun­try, CHO Group, told Olive Oil Times.

These vig­or­ous, self-fer­til­iz­ing and drought-resis­tant olive vari­eties (Chetoui and Chemlali) play a fun­da­men­tal role in sta­bi­liz­ing pro­duc­tion despite fluc­tu­a­tions in rain­fall and water reserves.- Abdelaziz Makhloufi, CEO, CHO Group

Optimism for the new sea­son came from Makhloufi and Wajih Rekik, the chief exec­u­tives of CHO Group and CHO America, respec­tively.

While vis­it­ing the groves, we observed first­hand that the prospects for the upcom­ing olive har­vest look promis­ing,” Makhloufi said. Industry fore­casts antic­i­pate total olive oil pro­duc­tion in Tunisia of 220,000 met­ric tons.”

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

Such esti­mates slightly exceed those recently dis­closed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries. The Directorate General of Agricultural Production expects Tunisian grow­ers to har­vest up to 1 mil­lion tons of olives and pro­duce 200,000 tons of olive oil.

The dif­fer­ent esti­mates are mostly related to the olive oil yields expected by olive millers, which can vary sig­nif­i­cantly in the dif­fer­ent areas of the coun­try due to cli­mate con­di­tions, soil char­ac­ter­is­tics and milling tech­nolo­gies.

In some highly sig­nif­i­cant olive-pro­duc­ing regions, such as Sfax and Gafsa, grow­ers expect a con­sid­er­able yield. Local author­i­ties expect a lower-than-aver­age har­vest in other areas, such as the north­ern Zaghouan province.

Should such esti­mates be con­firmed, Tunisia’s olive oil pro­duc­tion in the 2023/24 crop year would exceed the 180,000 tons pro­duced in 2022/23, fin­ish­ing close to the five-year aver­age of 228,000 tons.

Industry observers expect such vol­umes to boost olive oil exports, which have aver­aged 216,000 tons each year over the past half-decade. The IOC esti­mates the country’s olive oil con­sump­tion at 30,000 tons annu­ally.

According to the National Observatory of Agriculture (Onagri), between August 2022 and August 2023, olive oil export value rose 53 per­cent. In the same period, olive oil prices sky­rock­eted 58 per­cent.

Between November 2022 and August 2023, Onagri esti­mates that olive oil exports gen­er­ated almost 3 bil­lion dinars (€900 mil­lion) com­pared with slightly less than 2 bil­lion dinars (€608 mil­lion) reported for the 2020/2021 crop year. The value of the country’s olive oil exports helps the coun­try lower its food trade deficit.

Despite the hot and dry sum­mer faced by pro­duc­ers across Tunisia, local com­pa­nies attrib­uted expec­ta­tions of a bumper har­vest to the resilience of the country’s two main endemic vari­eties, Chemlali and Chetoui.

The dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics and rec­og­nized resilience [of those cul­ti­vars] mit­i­gated the impact of reduced pre­cip­i­ta­tion, set­ting them apart from other vari­eties and regions,” Makhloufi said.

The com­pany warned of the chal­lenges lying ahead for olive grow­ers in Tunisia. Even if the olive oil sec­tor con­tin­ues to be com­pet­i­tive and to play an impor­tant eco­nomic, social and envi­ron­men­tal role, Tunisian olive oil pro­duc­ers face sev­eral chal­lenges in the years ahead,” he said.

Indeed, Tunisian olive oil pro­duc­ers should cap­i­tal­ize on the major asset of the Tunisian olive sec­tor, which is the Chemlali and Chetoui vari­eties,” Makhloufi added. These vig­or­ous, self-fer­til­iz­ing and drought-resis­tant olive vari­eties play a fun­da­men­tal role in sta­bi­liz­ing pro­duc­tion despite fluc­tu­a­tions in rain­fall and water reserves.”

Indeed, some Tunisian pro­duc­ers are bull­ish that the extra­or­di­nary drought and heat tol­er­ance of these local vari­eties make the coun­try less sus­cep­ti­ble to the impacts of cli­mate change.


For the vari­ety we com­mer­cial­ize, we aren’t afraid of 40 ºC to 45 ºC tem­per­a­tures. The Tunisian olive tree can sur­vive in tem­per­a­tures up to 55 ºC,” Ramzi Lahmar, the chief exec­u­tive of Mahdia-based Lamar Olive Oil, told Olive Oil Times.

Lahmar noted how the poor har­vest antic­i­pated in Spain may also pro­vide new oppor­tu­ni­ties to Tunisian grow­ers.

In March, we esti­mated Tunisian pro­duc­tion to be 200,000 tons. Indeed, this increase in tem­per­a­tures isn’t a prob­lem for us. It’s even an advan­tage. From this per­spec­tive, cli­mate change is help­ing us,” Lahmar said.

By December 2023, my com­pany is expected to export 4,000 tons [of olive oil],” he added. To give you an idea of scale, France pro­duced 3,000 tons last year.”

The sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent yields reported by Tunisian grow­ers sea­son over sea­son do not sur­prise Fahd Ben Ameur, mar­ket­ing man­ager of Bulla Regia, one of Tunisia’s lead­ing exporters.

Water scarcity results in sig­nif­i­cant alter­nate bear­ing sea­sons in Tunisia,” he told Olive Oil Times. On top of that, we have many old trees and a high per­cent­age of cen­tury-old olive trees with low pro­duc­tion lev­els.”

Tunisian over­all pro­duc­tion could increase to 300,000 tons, but cli­mate con­di­tions are mak­ing it a chal­leng­ing tar­get,” he added. Farmers are invest­ing and plant­ing many new olive trees because olive oil is offer­ing them a good source of income. There are vari­eties such as Koroneiki which are prov­ing highly pro­duc­tive and with a superb chem­i­cal and organolep­tic pro­file.”

As many new orchards are being planted, we can hope for a sig­nif­i­cant increase in over­all pro­duc­tion within the next 10 to 20 years,” Ben Ameur con­tin­ued.

In such a sce­nario, the CHO Group also warned that focus­ing on the two tra­di­tional and drought-resis­tant local olive cul­ti­vars might not be enough.

It is essen­tial to invest in tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal­iza­tion at every stage of pro­duc­tion,” Makhloufi said. Digital solu­tions enable bet­ter con­trol of pro­duc­tion vari­ables such as water, tem­per­a­ture and oxy­gen, which is increas­ingly used in advanced olive pro­cess­ing.”

In addi­tion, dig­i­tal­iza­tion also con­cerns guar­an­tee­ing the trace­abil­ity of Tunisian oils via the blockchain to counter fraud and give con­sumers con­fi­dence in prod­uct qual­ity,” he con­cluded.

CHO Group, which accounts for 20 per­cent of Tunisian olive oil exports, will begin har­vest­ing dur­ing the last week of October.


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