Tunisia looks to tap into its history and push its olive oil front and center

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Only later, he says, did the Romans take trees from Tunisia to Italy — and stole the show.

A decade ago, almost all Tunisia’s olive oil was sold in bulk to Italians and Spaniards who would blend it with their own olive oil, and repackage it under their label.

Since then, Tunisia has been pushing to reclaim its industry. Olive oil companies agreed on a tax on bulk sales to help Slama and others brand their own olive oil. Then, they got a big boost from the Arab Spring, which put Tunisia on the map.

“I lived it personally,” recalled Slama. “In February 2011, my client in UK called me: ‘The Arab Spring! Tunisia! How is it, how are you? Please I want some oil, can you send me an offer?’ I said ‘yes, yes, OK you’ll have it this afternoon.’ You know, with this customer, it usually took three weeks to just try and negotiate the price. But that time, they made an order right after receiving my quote.”
Chiheb Slama, right, presents the company's latest olive oil production to Italian clients
On the picture: Chiheb Slama, right, presents the company’s latest olive oil production to Italian clients.

Along with other Tunisian companies, Slama Huiles also received technical assistance from USAID, which helped them transition from bulk producer to bottling.

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