June 23, 2014
An olive grove in Tunisia
Tunisian researchers visited Japan in May and studied the olive industry of Shodoshima Island to get ideas for how to better brand and process Tunisia's ultra-healthy olive oil.
Olive oil consumption reportedly lowers the risks of cancer and arteriosclerosis because it contains the anti-oxidant polyphenol. And Tunisian olive oil has 10 to 20 times as much polyphenol as European olive oil.
This fact was discovered by the Valorization of Bio-resources in Semi Arid and Arid Land for Regional Development project team of researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and five research institutes in Tunisia. The research project is under the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS), a collaboration of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
Despite this superiority of Tunisian olive oil, much of it is exported to Europe, mixed with other olive oil and then re-exported as Italian or Spanish olive oil, and the country has been unable to brand it and capitalize on its excellent quality.
From May 26 to 29, leaders from the project's Tunisian research institutes visited Japan at the invitation of JICA, and in addition to serving on the thesis examination committees of Tunisian graduate students in a doctoral program at Tsukuba as part of the project, they studied the olive industry of Shodoshima, where they got ideas for how to brand Tunisia’s healthy olive oil, as well as on marketing value-added products like olive leaf tea and salted olive seeds. Shodoshima olive industry representatives showed great interest in the high polyphenol content of Tunisia’s olive oil.
Collaboration between Tunisia and Japan could add value to Tunisian olive oil through the use of Japan’s processing and packaging techniques. In the near future, Tunisian olive oils may even be found on the shelves of Japanese supermarkets.