The planted areas of prickly pear-certified organic currently amount to 5000 hectares out of 600 thousand hectares. Investments in this sector have exceeded two million dinars, said Samia Maamer, Director General of Organic Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries.
The export revenues from the sector of prickly pear reached in 2016 more than 5MD. These exports were mainly intended for the European market. In Tunisia, only 20 companies operate in this sector which is a promising export market and is a new economic niche for several disadvantaged regions, added the official in a statement to the Agency TAP, granted on the sidelines of an exhibition of prickly pear oil, held on the occasion of the Exhibition Tunisia Health Expo (7-10 March 2018).
A dozen companies of different sizes are exhibiting in this exhibition and present a range of products extracted from the organic prickly pear, such as oil from prickly pear seeds, vinegar, cosmetics, and jam …
These companies are members of the national program “Organic Cactus Seed Oil-Origin Tunisia,” launched in 2017 and initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources, and Fisheries. This program aims to enhance the value of organic prickly pear seed oil. It is supported by the project of access to markets for agri-food and local products (PAMPAT), funded by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of the Swiss Confederation (SECO) and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
According to Maamer, the objective of this program that has provided training (quality, packaging, and market conquest …) to 20 member companies is to enhance the fruit of the prickly pear, knowing that previously, the purpose of planting this fruit was to preserve the soil and provide fodder for animals.
Mohamed Farouk Ayari, a 28-year-old who launched his project to produce oils of prickly pear seeds intended for export, in November 2017 in Grombalia, expressed the desire to see this product acquire international recognition, like argan oil in Morocco, especially since it is three times more antioxidants than the latter.
According to Ayari, it is imperative to launch a major campaign to promote this product and its virtues (very effective in cosmetics and rich in sterols and vitamin E) to make it known abroad and conquer the export markets.
For his part, Mohamed Rochdi Banani, founder of a company located in Kasserine in 2005, which offers a range of cosmetics and food extracted from the prickly pear, called on the government to further support this sector, like olive oil and dates, citing in this regard, the case of Morocco which has created a fund for the launch of a technology hub housing research laboratories in prickly pear.
He also announced the creation of a national association for the development of cactus that brings together all industrialists to restructure the sector and strengthen the participation of industry in fairs abroad.
The oil of prickly pear is obtained from the seeds of the fruit of prickly pear. To extract a single liter of oil it takes about a ton of figs. This meager yield explains the very high cost of this product, as pointed out by the producing companies.
Source : Chronicles of Tunipages