Tunisia’s Organic Producers Get Exposure to the U.S. Market

Tunisia is home to approximately 750 acres of organic farm land’the second largest acreage in Africa’where more than 2,300 farmers use certified organic production methods that help preserve biodiversity, support the soil, and protect the environment. Despite this rich resource, few Tunisian producers have tapped into the ever-expanding U.S. organics market.

For high quality Tunisian olive oil, you start with organically produced olives.

The Tunisia Small and Medium Enterprise Development Project was designed to boost Tunisian exports and promote economic growth by providing technical assistance to export-ready or near export-ready firms in the organic food sector, among others.

Buyers missions are an effective way to introduce producers to potential buyers and increase the demand for Tunisian organics through better name recognition in the U.S. market. Although quality and standards of organic foods in Tunisia are high, Tunisia has not yet been able to achieve notable international presence.

In December 2013, the Tunisia SME Project and Tunisia’s Center for Export Promotion invited four U.S. buyers to tour Tunisia’s organic farms, visit state-of-the-art facilities, and meet the Tunisian producers. Collectively, the buyers represented an annual purchasing volume of approximately $150 million.

The American buyers described the trip as an eye-opening experience. ‘The companies I witnessed offer the highest quality and degree of pride in work at the artisan-level,’ said one of the participants. ‘The U.S. consumer who is shopping at Whole Foods is looking for exactly what Tunisia has to offer.’

After this encouraging feedback from the buyers, Selima Ghariani, CEO of the organic olive oil producer Tunihuile, decided to attend the San Francisco’s Winter Fancy Food Show in January 2014.

‘After meeting the U.S. buyers in December, we were encouraged to try the Fancy Food Show.’ At the show, Tunihuile promoted its brand, developed a network of contacts, and ultimately closed a deal with the firm New Yorkaise for 300 tons of organic Tunisian olive oil valued at $1.2 million.

‘At this point,’ Ghariani said, ‘we are now looking to set-up a solid logistics structure in the U.S.’ 

With the help from the Tunisia SME Project, Tunisia is building on global demand and establishing the Tunisia organics brand.

‘Tunisia is poised for excellent growth,’ said another American buyer. ‘They may need some help positioning their goods toward the U.S. consumer, but as we say in marketing, it is easy to add sizzle to a very good steak.’

The Tunisia SME Project ran from 2012 to 2014 and was funded by USAID through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance, or VEGA.