Between January and October 2018, the export of organic products from Tunisia increased by 43% in value and 28% in quantity. The key products are olive oil and dates. However, the sector has a promotion deficit and even lacks visibility locally. It is also facing some quality problems.
In 2016, the organic sector contributed 9.3% of the total Tunisian exports. Between January and October 2018, the sale of these products abroad therefore brought in 520 million dinars [174 million USD]. Today, Tunisia is the first African exporter of the sector. 306,000 hectares are devoted to organic farming in the country.
The exports are dominated by products like olive oil (42,000 tons for the first 10 months of 2018, according to the data on the website webmanagercenter) and dates (10,473 tons, according to the same source), namely the famous Deglet Nour from the south of the country.
Export is going well, but it is not the same for local sales. The Tunisian market is indeed suffering from a lack of national policy to develop the sector and help the producers. Consumers are therefore not well informed about the differences between organic and conventional. “The sector is facing a deficit in terms of the promotion of its products and of its expertise on the global organic market,” observed the Swiss ambassador in Tunis during a debate on April 5th, 2019.
Tunisian products are also experiencing quality problems. In March 2018, a survey in the newspaper, 60 Millions, revealed that among the olive oils tested, “five products contained pesticide residues and six contained plasticizers, including phthalates, well-known endocrine disruptors. This migration, which affects mostly Tunisian oils, can come from the containers or from machine joints used in the production chain. Some toluene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were also found in several samples.”