Italy, in order to be present on the international olive oil markets, needs Tunisia, because the Italian market for various reasons is less and less sufficient to satisfy olive oil exports (but not even the domestic demand: in 2018, olive oil production has halved, from 435 to 220 thousand tons); Tunisia, while boasting some internationally recognised excellences, needs Italy to improve its know-how not only at the niche level, but above all at the level of massive and widespread production; in fact, in the interest of both Countries, we must be increasingly aware that international consumers are now able to recognise and appreciate quality oils, evaluating their organoleptic and nutritional characteristics and no longer tolerating low quality oils in reason of production, processing and conservation phases which, too often, leave much to be desired (see the experience of SERVAGRI in its entirety), at least from a chemical and organoleptic point of view.
We must make a virtue of this disadvantage to standardise production jointly and to give a note of typicality to the offer according to international standards, following the guidelines of the project proposed here.
The project has its territories of application in the governorates of Sousse, Nabeul, Monastir and Kairouan (Tunisia) and in the provinces of Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa (Italy) and will aim to establish:
› Strengthening cross-border contacts in the cooperation area (i.e.: networking, forums and establishment of sustainable partnerships);
› Improvement of knowledge and skills (i.e.: exchange of experiences and good practices, innovation, capacity building and joint research);
› Concrete and visible achievements (i.e.: application of innovative techniques / procedures, pilot projects, common tools based on information and communication technologies, online availability of freely accessible resources).
With the SERVAGRI experience of the past ENPI CBC “Italy-Tunisia” 2007-2013 edition, an entire pilot project was dedicated to the modernisation of the olive oil supply chain in Beja and Bizerte governorates and with another one, parallel, we organised ‘short’ supply chains, which benefit from organised direct sale. Through high-level training ‘in the field’ carried out simultaneously on farmers, operators, professionals, technicians, oil millers from all over the oil supply chain, product innovations (thanks to the use of radically new technologies) and productive process innovations (introduction of new production techniques and new organisational characteristics) completely innovative in Sicily and even more in Tunisia have been taught, acting upstream and downstream of the entire supply chain: advanced techniques of olive tree pruning, olive harvesting, storage, transport, milling, packaging, marketing, with quality rules linked to a common registered trademark and precise specification and quality charter. We have also linked the provisions of the oil specification with those of organised direct sale specification and we organised a 2-day short chain Farmer’s Market in Tunisia and one in Sicily, with incredible media and public success.
Now, we want to capitalise on this highly successful experience, both by making available the SERVAGRI “umbrella” Brand, already registered in both countries; its Quality Charter; the Specification for the regulation and use of the SERVAGRI brand; the Transparent Labels; the Manuals and Regulations for innovative production in the olive sector; the “public-private” partnership models, useful for structuring the organisation of the olive oil supply chain, according to the logic of cross-border clusters. And, by proposing to continue this virtuous path:
1) by strengthening the wealth of know-how accumulated on quality olive oil;
2) by trying from the beginning to institutionalise the cross-border olive oil cluster, aiming at a well-targeted organisation chart and implementing its business plan, as an exit strategy aimed at guaranteeing it the necessary internal / external financial resources, in view of its concrete sustainability over the entire target area.
The target groups will be directly involved in all project activities, sharing the applied research path specifically for the cross-border olive-growing sector; that one of higher education, of the transversal and innovative transfer of know-how “in the field”; that one of concrete application in farms, oil mills and other pillars of the olive oil chain of transferred and learned innovation; that one of the adoption of certifications, protocols, aggregation and networking tools that will be put in place in the cross-border clustering process; and, finally, that one of “public-private” inter-institutional cooperation implemented for the continuous updating, capitalisation, advocacy and perpetuating of the cross-border cluster. For the most correct involvement of the target groups, we will follow the LEADER approach, already wide-spreading in Tunisia through the ENPARD programme, based on the CLLD (Community-Led Local Development) method, a successful participatory approach consolidated in a rural environment.
The foreseen target groups, listed below, will participate and cooperate all together in a mixed way for a more effective awareness on the multiple aspects of the management of the supply chain, from olive crops to treatment protocols, to packaging, to the transformation of olives, to the conservation of oils, to the controls on the mills, up to the bottling (or putting into tanks for the sale of bulk oil) and to international marketing. Here is the list of expected target groups:
> Young people and women, as operators or carriers of new services and business ideas in olive oil sector;
> Entrepreneurs, operators, professionals of the olive oil supply chains, agricultural organisations (cooperatives, producer organisations, etc.) and operators of marketing and socio-economic innovation;
> Decision makers, officials, local / regional / national authorities in the cross-border area of the olive oil sector;
> Universities, research institutes, olive oil agri-food groups, olive service centres and rural development institutions;
> Trade unions, category representatives and professional associations;
> National / regional / local institutions for marketing and import-export;
> Financial institutions.
The Final Beneficiaries are the families of young and female entrepreneurs, farmers and operators of the olive oil supply chains; consumers and population of the project target area, of the cross-border area and of target third markets for export; international organisations.
The creation of transnational links between MSMEs, professionals, researchers, officials, public bodies, regional groupings, decision makers and other stakeholders, will allow to overcome local limits, achieve economies of scale and create a cross-border cluster, which guarantees healthy, safe, quality and traceable olive oils, with positive effects in the sector, also in terms of flow of knowledge and organisational innovations. “Public-private” sharing actions, practical training in the field, shared and innovative exchange actions, transversal initiatives on institutions, stakeholders and vulnerable groups also aim to promote a common cross-border panel of territorial identity olive oils having their own specificities but complementary under an “umbrella brand” of common quality. Therefore, the project actions should contribute to a serious and systematic restructuring of the cross-border olive oil chains, aimed at permanently strengthening this cross-border economic cluster of traceable and quality olive oil, well able to meet the needs of international markets.
Furthermore, this cross-border cluster would strengthen the olive oil sector of both countries to make them successful on world markets: for the Italian market, aiming to satisfy internal and external demand; for the Tunisian one, innovating its know-how in its large-scale production to sell to internal and external markets under a recognised and appreciated brand of quality oils, which guarantees the distinctive organoleptic and nutritional characteristics, thus evolving from the low level of quality and healthiness due to poor production, processing and conservation. By standardising production together, typifying the offer and combining supply chain traceability according to international standards ― also capitalising on the experience of the SERVAGRI Observatory ― we aim to meet the needs of consumers and entrepreneurs in the internal and external markets of the cross-border area, improving also information on the product and increasing purchases.
The SERVAGRI portal and its dedicated ICT platform will allow information traceability to the consumer in multiple languages that will be able, also through informatics applications, to trace the predominant variety in the olive grove of origin (by typing a QR code for example) and to know in detail where the olives were harvested, in which mill they were pressed, where and when the oil was bottled, the nutraceutical properties of what is about to be consumed. With the possibility of using nutritional claims provided for by Reg. EU 432/2012 CE and, moreover, a full traceability extended to the entire supply chain through the joint use of the UNI EN ISO 22005 standards.
This is a revolution in the sector adopted jointly by the stakeholders of both countries who can act on the health and quality of oils, on their profitability for operators and on the health of families, thanks to the stable collaboration initiated by the project partners, in both lines, conventional and organic or typified ones.