Despite the political and economic difficulties, Tunisian olive oils won more quality awards at this year's World Olive Oil Competition than ever before.
Part of our continuing coverage of the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Tunisian producers earned a record-high 21 awards at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, four more than the previous record set at last year’s edition of the contest.
The much-needed rains preceding the North African country’s harvest seemed to be an omen of good things to come.
It wipes out all the tiredness and rewards the hard work I went through during the harvest season in order to produce such great quality olive oil.
Despite political upheaval and a decrease in olive oil prices, producers from the world’s largest olive oil producer outside of the European Union earned a record-high 12 Gold Awards and nine Silvers at the NYIOOC.
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Fitouri, whose farm is in the Dougga Valley, in Tunisia’s northwestern Beja region, said the key factors to his success are his attention to detail, long-term thinking and passion for olive oil. However, he said hard work is by far the biggest determining factor in this year’s success.
“It wipes out all the tiredness and rewards the hard work I went through during the harvest season in order to produce such great quality olive oil,” Fitouri said.
Atef Ferjani, the company’s executive manager, said that he was very pleased with the result and that the two awards are great recognition for his team’s hard work during what was an exceptional year for them.
“I feel very proud and thankful that we have won these prestigious awards,” he said. “For us, it is a great challenge we have accomplished. The Carthagene Olivos brand is like our oldest son and we are proud that he achieved his first victory in his first global competition.”
For Ferjani, these awards cap off what has already been a very good crop year for him and his team, which began with the installation of a new mill.
“For us, 2019 was an exceptional year,” he said. “We completed the installation of the olive oil extraction plant in October 2019; the tanks were installed in November, which came one month behind the harvest in Tunisia.”
“But this delay has given us more confidence that even with the late start, we could achieve our goals,” he added.
Another big winner at the 2020 NYIOOC was the French company, HDPM, which produces its Parcelle 26 brand of olive oil in Tunisia.
The company won three Gold Awards at this year’s competition, improving on the previous year’s performance, in which they won two Golds and a Silver. The awards came for two medium Arbequina monovarietals and one medium Arbequina blend.
“This year, Parcelle 26 has accomplished a significant milestone by installing its new olive mill on-farm,” Mouna Berdi, the company’s business developer, said. “This was really challenging for us and we believe that it will open new horizons and allow us to give consumers the best product that we can.”
Berdi said if there is a secret to their success, it would be the word control, from the fruit setting through the harvest and up to the moment of bottling.
“It’s not an easy task making premium quality olive oil,” Berdi said. “Each year there are a few surprises.”
Domaine Adonis capped a successful year with two Silver Awards.
The company produces extra virgin olive oil from Koroneiki olives using traditional harvesting methods and the 2019/2020 season was fortuitous for the company, owner Ben Ayed Salah said.
“2019 was an exceptional year for our field apart from a lack of manpower due to a record harvest in Tunisia. Our challenge was to produce for our first year an excellent quality oil with our own two-phase oil mill,” Ayed Salah said.
Blend No. 3, a medium intensity blend, and Koroneiki No. 5, a medium Koroneiki, were the winning oils.
“We are proud and happy to have been medaled by this prestigious competition for our first international trip,” said Ayed Salah.
The Tunisian producer Viaraya won two awards for a pair of its organic monovarietals.
The company picked up a Gold Award for its Oleastra Sahli brand, an organic delicate Sehli, and a Silver Award for its organic medium Chetoui.
“Hard work always pays off in the end,” owner Raya Abid said. “My team and I are so happy to be awarded!”
Abid said that while the end result was satisfying, there many headaches along the way to producing the two winning oils.
“Our mill is still under construction, so it was difficult to find the ‘right’ mill with the machines and the hygiene norms we wanted,” Abid said. “Then we had to rent it out entirely, so our maestro could use it exclusively for Oleastra. There were also other headaches of course, including olive transportation, finding the right timing and temperature, as well other logistics.”