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European Bank Provides New Funds for Olive Growing and Irrigation Projects in Tunisia

The combined ā‚¬55 million in funding comes as officials in the Italian olive oil sector call on the European Commission to end its duty-free import quotas from Tunisia.
Jan. 17, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

Recent News

Tunisian olive oil conĀ­firmed its pivĀ­otal role among the counĀ­tryā€™s agriĀ­culĀ­tural prodĀ­ucts in 2021.

Despite a diminĀ­ished harĀ­vest, olive oil still conĀ­stiĀ­tutes 37 perĀ­cent of all food and agriĀ­culĀ­tural exports.

Olive growĀ­ing is one of the most relĀ­eĀ­vant agriĀ­culĀ­tural activĀ­iĀ­ties and it exerts a pivĀ­otal role for its socio-culĀ­tural ramĀ­iĀ­fiĀ­caĀ­tions, fosĀ­terĀ­ing develĀ­opĀ­ment and curĀ­tailĀ­ing depopĀ­uĀ­laĀ­tion in rural areas.- Massimiliano Giansanti, presĀ­iĀ­dent, Confagricoltura

According to the newly released figĀ­ures of the National Institute of Statistics, Tunisia exported 198,400 tons of olive oil in 2021, down from the 386,900 tons of 2020.

See Also:Olive Oil Trade News

While the reduced volĀ­umes affected overĀ­all export value, which dropped 26 perĀ­cent, the National Observatory on Agriculture (ONAGRI) noted that olive oil price per kiloĀ­gram skyĀ­rockĀ­eted 45 perĀ­cent in 202, comĀ­pared with the preĀ­viĀ­ous year, to Tunisian Dinar (TND) 8.62 equal to ā‚¬2.63.

In 2021, thanks to ongoĀ­ing bureauĀ­cracy reforms and interĀ­naĀ­tional investĀ­ments, Tunisian olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­ers and botĀ­tlers are foreĀ­casted to douĀ­ble their olive oil exports in the next five years.

Along with risĀ­ing exports, olive oil qualĀ­ity in Tunisia has also increased in recent years, with proĀ­ducĀ­ers earnĀ­ing record-high numĀ­bers of awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition in each of the last four years.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Tunisia

Among the reaĀ­sons for Tunisiaā€™s increasĀ­ing influĀ­ence in the global olive oil secĀ­tor are interĀ­naĀ­tional investĀ­ments and supĀ­port that have helped spread olive growĀ­ing in the counĀ­try and adopt modĀ­ern farmĀ­ing techĀ­niques and machinĀ­ery.

In recent weeks, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has conĀ­firmed a new ā‚¬6.2 milĀ­lion loan to the Compagnie GĆ©nĆ©rale des Industries Alimentaires (COGIA) to help strengthen the olive farmĀ­ing secĀ­tor in the counĀ­try.

COGIA, one of the countryā€™s major food manĀ­uĀ­facĀ­turĀ­ers, will use those funds to fosĀ­ter proĀ­ducĀ­tion, botĀ­tling and exports. In supĀ­port of the counĀ­tryā€™s exports, there have been six EBRD-funded projects for olive growĀ­ing in Tunisia since 2017.

Since the start of its operĀ­aĀ­tions in Tunisia in 2012, the EBRD conĀ­firmed that it has invested more than ā‚¬1.3 bilĀ­lion in 55 projects in the counĀ­try.

On top of the funds directed to local farmĀ­ing, the EBRD has also approved a ā‚¬49 milĀ­lion loan to the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries desĀ­tined to improve access to irriĀ­gaĀ­tion waters for more than 6,800 farmĀ­ers and their famĀ­iĀ­lies.

Those funds will help reinĀ­state deep wells and ageĀ­ing water infraĀ­strucĀ­tures in southĀ­ern regions such as GabĆØs, Gafsa, Kebili and Tozeur whose almost 40 oases are ā€‹ā€œthe priĀ­mary source of employĀ­ment and income in the region, with irriĀ­gated agriĀ­culĀ­ture proĀ­vidĀ­ing jobs to 35 perĀ­cent of the workĀ­ing popĀ­uĀ­laĀ­tion,ā€ the EBRD wrote in a press note.

The EBRD project will folĀ­low the path of the strateĀ­gic develĀ­opĀ­ment plans announced by Tunisia for susĀ­tainĀ­able water manĀ­ageĀ­ment in the southĀ­ern regions.

The modĀ­ernĀ­izaĀ­tion of the infraĀ­strucĀ­tures, ā€‹ā€œwill also address the depleĀ­tion of non-renewĀ­able groundĀ­waĀ­ter resources through the develĀ­opĀ­ment of a long-term susĀ­tainĀ­able stratĀ­egy to address the water scarcity in the region, as well as a trainĀ­ing proĀ­gram for farmĀ­ers to proĀ­mote more susĀ­tainĀ­able agriĀ­culĀ­tural pracĀ­tices and water manĀ­ageĀ­ment and idenĀ­tify alterĀ­naĀ­tive income sources.ā€

See Also:U.K. Drops Tariffs on Tunisian Olive Oil Imports After Signing Trade Deal

According to the presĀ­iĀ­dent of the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries, Abdelmajid Ezzar, more should be done to ensure Tunisian olive oil prices reflect the high qualĀ­ity of the local prodĀ­uct.

He added that Tunisian olive oil was sold on the interĀ­naĀ­tional marĀ­kets in 2021 at a price around ā‚¬1.75, way less than Italian olive oil, which often fared above ā‚¬3.50.

Most Tunisian olive oil exports are desĀ­tined for the European Union as part of the duty-free quota of 56,700 tons. The 27-memĀ­ber bloc is also among the main sponĀ­sors of the EBRD itself and some within E.U. have begun askĀ­ing for a review of the curĀ­rent approach.

ā€œTunisia is one of those counĀ­tries where olive farmĀ­ing has seen a steady growth in recent years,ā€ Massimiliano Giansanti, the presĀ­iĀ­dent of the Italian national farmĀ­ing orgaĀ­niĀ­zaĀ­tion Confagricoltura, told Olive Oil Times.

ā€œIts olive growĀ­ing surĀ­face reaches 20 perĀ­cent of the whole terĀ­riĀ­tory, and its proĀ­ducĀ­tion is now close to six perĀ­cent of global yields,ā€ he added. ā€‹ā€œOlive growĀ­ing is one of the most relĀ­eĀ­vant agriĀ­culĀ­tural activĀ­iĀ­ties and it exerts a pivĀ­otal role for its socio-culĀ­tural ramĀ­iĀ­fiĀ­caĀ­tions, fosĀ­terĀ­ing develĀ­opĀ­ment and curĀ­tailĀ­ing depopĀ­uĀ­laĀ­tion in rural areas.ā€

Giansanti added how the curĀ­rent E.U. meaĀ­sures to susĀ­tain Tunisian exports date back to the afterĀ­math of the 2015 terĀ­rorĀ­ist attack in Port El Kantaoui, durĀ­ing which 38 peoĀ­ple were killed after gunĀ­men opened fire at a popĀ­uĀ­lar tourist resort. The attacks prompted the European Union to move in supĀ­port of the counĀ­tryā€™s econĀ­omy.

However, some memĀ­bers of the olive oil secĀ­tor believe that enough time has passed and conĀ­diĀ­tions have changed.

ā€œConfagricoltura has been active in tryĀ­ing to avoid the renewal of the facilĀ­iĀ­tated conĀ­diĀ­tions for Tunisian exports to the European Union,ā€ Giansanti said.

Several politiĀ­cians are also askĀ­ing the European Commission to invesĀ­tiĀ­gate the matĀ­ter.

In a recent hearĀ­ing, Raffaele Fitto, presĀ­iĀ­dent of the Italian ECR-Fratelli dā€™Italia group, has asked Brusselsā€‹ā€œto evalĀ­uĀ­ate potenĀ­tial effects of the adopted meaĀ­sures on the European olive oil secĀ­torā€ and to conĀ­sider ā€‹ā€œa temĀ­poĀ­rary susĀ­penĀ­sion of the agreeĀ­ments between E.U. and Tunisia.ā€

ā€œTunisiaā€™s supĀ­port proĀ­gram for olive growĀ­ing is not in quesĀ­tion, as well as other E.U. interĀ­venĀ­tions for the least develĀ­oped counĀ­tries,ā€ added Giansanti, whose assoĀ­ciĀ­aĀ­tion has brought the issue to Italian and European regĀ­uĀ­laĀ­tors.

ā€œWe underĀ­stand the need for the European Union to be supĀ­portĀ­ive of a counĀ­try, like Tunisia, weakĀ­ened by terĀ­rorĀ­ist acts and by politĀ­iĀ­cal or ecoĀ­nomic instaĀ­bilĀ­ity due to interĀ­nal events,ā€ he said.

ā€œHowever, we have to evalĀ­uĀ­ate whether the incenĀ­tives for the develĀ­opĀ­ment of the supĀ­ply chain can coexĀ­ist with the duties facilĀ­iĀ­taĀ­tions for Tunisian olive oil exports to the European marĀ­ket,ā€ Giansanti conĀ­cluded.


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