Tunisia expects surge in olive oil production to boost battered economy

Workers stand in front of crates of olives at a processing factory in Beni Hassen city. Tunisia expects olive production to jump by 160 percent in the 2017 season. (Reuters)
Updated 18 December 2017

Tunisia expects surge in olive oil production to boost battered economy

BENI HASSEN: Trucks loaded with boxes full of olives were queueing at a press plant in this small Tunisian town as the North African country sees a surge in olive oil production in a badly-needed boost to its ailing economy.
Tunisia, one of the world’s top three olive oil producers, expects olive production to jump by 160 percent to between 1.5 million tons and 1.6 million tons in the 2017 season which started in November, the agriculture ministry said
That will translate into up to 280 million tons of olive oil, about 80 percent of which will be exported, helping to generate hard currency needed to stabilize its battered dinar.
Tunisia has been in economic crisis since a popular uprising in 2011 ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The crisis has deepened as militant attacks took their toll on the tourism industry and weakened the dinar against hard currencies.
“It will be an exceptional (olive) season thanks to much better rainfall than last year,” said Hamdi Khalifa, owner of an olive oil press in Bani Hassen, one of the main production areas located a two-hour drive south of the capital Tunis.
His workers produce 90 tons of olive oil each day in the press compared to 40 tons a year ago, he said. Prices have shot up with 10 liters of oil now selling for 90 dinars.
Last year’s production had been hit hard by a drought.
The production boom has helped ease unemployment in rural areas with farmers complaining that they are struggling to find enough farmhands.
Some 135,000 workers were needed for this year’s season for up to three months, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
“I’m paying now (workers) 35 dinars a day but its not easy to find workers,” said Sabri Barki, a farmer who owns 100 olive trees in the Bani Hassen area.
“Prices have gone up.”
The olive oil industry relies on 70 million olive trees that cover around 1.7 million hectares. They provide a living for at least 500,000 families in the North African country of 11 million.
It hopes that rising olive oil exports will help reduce its record trade deficit, which hit $4.61 billion in the first nine months of this year.
Last month, the agriculture ministry said Tunisia aimed to export about 220,000 tons of olive oil this season compared with about 75,000 tons last season that brought in $320 million.
World olive production is expected to rise by 14 percent to 2.9 million tons in the 2017/18 season with Tunisia posting the highest gain with a 120 percent rise, according to the International Olive Council, an industry body.
Top producer Spain, which has been hit by a severe drought this year, is expected to post a 15 percent drop in output.
The government has been tying to boost production with loans for farmers. Stability in Tunisia is a concern for the European Union as unemployment has driven young Tunisians into illegal migration and joining militant groups abroad.
— Reuters


Indonesia’s anti-trust watchdog levies $3 million in fines on Grab and partner

Updated 03 July 2020

Indonesia’s anti-trust watchdog levies $3 million in fines on Grab and partner

  • Grab infringed the anti-monopoly laws after evaluating the case
  • Grab is Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup with a valuation of $14 billion

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s anti-trust watchdog announced fines totaling more than $3 million for Grab and its business partner after finding it guilty of breaking anti-monopoly laws, a verdict the ride-hailing firm vowed to appeal.
The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) said it had found Grab had discriminated against its drivers, prioritizing those provided by partner PT Teknologi Pengangkutan Indonesia (TPI) to the Softbank-backed firm.
In a statement, Dinni Melanie, the chair of the watchdog judicial panel, said it had found Grab infringed the anti-monopoly laws after evaluating the case on Thursday evening.
The agency imposed a fine of $2.1 million on Grab and a penalty of $1.03 million rupiah on TPI.
A spokesman for Grab, which is Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup with a valuation of $14 billion, said the firm would appeal the verdict.
“Grab’s view is that it has not violated any regulation, engaged in any anti-competitive business practices, or injured any third parties,” he said, characterizing the watchdog’s findings as “unsubstantiated allegations.”
Reuters could not immediately reach TPI to seek comment.