On December 1, Tunisians celebrated the birth of the prophet Muhammad with assidat zgougou, a pudding-like dessert garnished with nuts, dried fruits, and candies. For one day out of the year, families savor this uniquely Tunisian treat made from zgougou, seed of the Aleppo pine tree that grows abundantly throughout the Mediterranean. With some 360 thousand acres of Aleppo pine forest in Kasserine, Siliana, Kef and Bizerte, Tunisia is the only country where the tree’s black-grey seeds are harvested for human consumption.
On Sunday, January 22, a group of friends set off to Jbel el Faouara in the hills of Hammamet, where they were threatened by security forces at the service of wealthy businessman Mohamed Ayachi Ajroudi, who is expanding his palace in the foothills, illegally. The following Sunday, residents of Hammamet organized a picnic protest recalling their right to access the green space they love.
Mahmoudi, Beskri, Bidi, Richi, Jneh Khottifa, Rommani, Ouard Bled, Ajlili, Arbi, Ardhaoui, Souhili…many would not recognize the importance of these names, representing but a fraction of the wheat and barley varieties once cultivated in Tunisia. Since the 1940s, the number of local cereal varieties has decreased by 90%, from fifty to five. Having recently examined some of the nutritional and economic implications of cereal production in Tunisia, Nawaat spoke with Amine Slim, researcher at the National Gene Bank, for a closer look at cereals, a glimpse into this vital food source from the inside-out.
With each measure of “support” the EU has offered Tunisia—whether in the form of a sizable loan for security reforms, or a free trade agreement for economic growth—particular emphasis has been placed on the recent successes and imperative role of civil society in the country’s path to democracy. But if what Tunisian civil society demands is a shifting of the scales and relations based on reciprocity, is Europe really prepared to listen?
If important steps have been taken to improve management and optimize exploitation of State-owned agricultural lands and alleviate the debts of tenants who lease these properties, adopted measures are yet limited and incomplete … Working at the very heart of a sector upon which depends the country’s food security and, to a certain extent, the economy, Tunisian farmers have yet to gain substantial financial backing, adequate legal support, and due political recognition. Moving onward from a year of climatic fluctuations and political violence which have had devastating effects upon the sector, government officials and decision-makers will do well to recognize and invest in agriculture as the base from which sovereignty, security, and stability can grow.
Peak season of olive oil production having recently come to an end, the month of April has seen a host of competitions in cities across the globe to discern this year’s highest quality olive oils and acknowledge outstanding producers. On 16 April, the third annual Awards Ceremony for The Best Packaged Tunisian Olive Oil took place at the Hotel Ramada Plaza in Gammarth. Some two hundred business-owners, foreign diplomats, ministers, and press were present to honor the winning producers—Al Jazira, Ulysse Agro Industries, and El Baraka respectively—of twenty-two competing companies.
At the beginning of March, another modification was issued via Committee Implementing Regulation 2015/380 to suspend the issuing of importation certificates and to respond to requests for olive oil with an allocation coefficient of 5,451531%. In order to understand how these regulations reflect and effect the production and export of Tunisian olive oil, Nawaat visited the Tunisian Board of Olive Oil (ONH) in Tunis.
Articles and reports in foreign media on Tunisian olive oil have been manifold since the beginning of the year, prompted by an EU regulation to accommodate Tunisia’s “excellent season” and US interest in promoting and facilitating the export of Tunisian olive oil to the States. The following is an overview of Tunisia’s olive oil industry and affiliated ministries, institutions, and foreign markets who influence the production and export of Tunisia’s historically symbolic and gastronomically essential commodity, ingredient, source of wealth.