The world’s growing taste for olive oil is pouring new life into parts of rural North Africa, where the golden liquid has been a staple since ancient times.
However, drought, archaic production methods and poor marketing are a challenge for local producers facing growing competition as more countries slip into the olive oil market.
Tunisia and Morocco lack the big energy reserves of their Opec-member neighbours Algeria and Libya and their dry, hot climates make olive oil a promising alternative export.
All but 5% of the world’s olive trees grow around the Mediterranean. Spain dominates the industry from its power base in Martos, followed by Italy and Greece.
Attempts by North Africa to narrow the gap have been welcomed by European producers unable to press enough olive oil to meet world demand as growing middle classes from Brazil to Russia acquire a taste.
More expensive than other cooking oils, it contains more healthier mono-unsaturated fat and polyphenols.