The European Parliament had voted to allow an additional 70,000 tonnes (35,000 per year) of its virgin olive oil to be imported duty free in the EU, in 2016/17, in order to support Tunisia following the 2015 attacks, but data show that the support announced by the EP has not materialised in practice.
On the contrary, the percentage of duty-free olive oil exports has decreased from 27% in 2015 to 19% in 2016, down 8%, revealed the Tunisian Observatory of the Economy (French: OTE).
According to a note published by OTE on Saturday and titled “Export of Tunisian olive oil: the underlying support of EU”, “by granting the total quota of 57,600 tonnes in January 2016, in order to make Tunisia benefit from the additional quota, the EU was able to make believe it supported the Tunisian olive oil sector, whereas in practice the country did not benefit either from the usual quota, since it was able to export only 6,000 tonnes that month, or the additional quota which has been used up to 30%”.
According to the same note, the system of quotas for Tunisia’s duty-free olive exports to the EU (defined by Regulation EC 1918/2016), sets a maximum annual quota of 57,600 tonnes, coupled with a monthly variable quota system for each month.
OTE recalled that in 2013 the fact that the peak of Tunisian olive oil exports to the EU coincided with a minimal monthly quota explains that Tunisia has not been able to exhaust the entire annual quota with 36% of exports actually exempted from customs duties.
In 2014, even though the level of exports was very low, due to the bad 2013/2014 season, the EU refused to grant the quotas requested by Tunisia, which nevertheless respected the annual and monthly limits set by the regulation.
Thus, by 2014, the level of exports actually duty-free accounted for 38% of total exports, while they could have been totally exempted.
By 2015, the EU has complied with the Regulation and, given the very good 2014/2015 season, granted the maximum allowable quota, allowing 27% of exports of olive oil to be exempted that year.
Moreover, the observatory considered that “since the support was adopted at the same time as the first round of negotiations of the DCFTA, it is more like a charming operation towards Tunisia rather than a sincere support of the Tunisian olive oil sector.”