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wajih rekik
Dear Mr Burdeau,
This reporting is a bitter reminder of how unfair our world is and how prejudice and borderline racist someone can be.
This article and the series of 3 articles about Tunisia, do not do justice to the beautiful country of Tunisia nor to the highly educated, highly ambitious and modern Tunisians.

I lived in Tunisia for 20 years and i spent my whole life around olive oil mills in Tunisia.
I produced in my family's mills, i saw my grand father buy olives and sell olive oil and saw hundreds of people/families in Sfax , in sousse, in Bizerte and in kairouan buying olive oil in bulk at the mills for their family's yearly use with each having a preference for a different flavor profile depending on the region. I never saw a single mill fermenting olives to crash them or anybody asking for fermented olive oil.
I saw people who are a carpenter or a shoe maker or a fisherman that could tell the acidity of the olive oil by just tasting it. those are memories that touched my inner soul and are within me today.
I admired that knowledge and it built a passion in me and 1000s of people around me to learn and get involved with olive oil.

in Sfax, 30 years ago, when my grand father brought "zite endhouhe " (the very first crush of the season) home, the whole family gathered to feast, taste the oil, comment and jokingly tease my grandfather about some defect my uncle found in the oil or when a friend thought he was dying from the pungency of the olive oil that burned his throat as he was slurping to taste.
It took me time to understand that pungency and what's behind it. It took a Japanese team of scientists along with Tunisian counterparts to find out that the olive oil from Tunisia has the highest levels of polyphenols in the world.
I saw my grand mother inherit her mother's big jars of olive oil that she used to store in the "maksoura" (the basement) , because Tunisians knew 100s of years ago that olive oil is better stored in a cool environment away from light and heat. she had 8 of them, each holding around 100 litres of olive oil.
she knew her oils and since then, she had a finishing oil and an everyday cooking oil, better than an iron chef.

you missed to report on the plantations of irrigated, high density orchards, 10s of millions of trees.
You missed CHO's millions of trees planted and added each year in rural regions, with mechanical harvesting, milling ...
just this year, we exported out of Tunisia thousands of tons of olive oil with acidity lower than 0.3 and 0.2 , you missed the statistics, you missed the data presented to you at the ONH.
fermented olives do not produce an acidity of 0.2 and a peroxide value of 6 and 7.

you visited CHO, a jewel in the olive oil world, a state of the art lab, filling, oil mills , fully automatic, Beautiful research center, an olive museum, different factories recycling olive waste, international certifications, a team of devoted, beautiful technicians that you were given a chance to talk to.
from all your visit, and all what was presented to you, you only retained from a random discussion with one of the pillars of olive oil research in the world "Imed Ghodhbeni" that there are people that prefer fermented olives in Tunisia. A sentence that you took out of context and portrayed as if Tunisians consume fermented olive oils?
The picture of the filthy truck with olive bags, is that really a representation of the olive harvest in Tunisia? is that the only picture you had of olive trucks where there are thousands every day driving around the country?

You missed to report that Tunisia has a big problem this year in producing lampante to be able to make refined olive oil.
90% of our production in our mills this season has been extra virgin.
You missed to report that Tunisia's own branded oil has done its own revolution and is growing within the top selling brands in the world today.
you missed to report that Tunisia is the only country where not a single drop of olive oil is exported without government analysis in an IOC accredited laboratory so NEVER a Tunisian olive oil is found adulterated or fake.
you missed the soul, the heart and the dynamics of Tunisia's olive oil world as you were blinded by your prejudice and guided by a mental picture you drew before visiting Tunisia and had to dig hard to pick up clues and make stories to draw your own reality of Tunisia's olive oil.

You explain a drop in export because of seasonality is attributed to traditional means?
how do you call the drop in California's production (being covered by oil from Argentina and Spain)? a traditional olive oil production from 15 years of heritage?
how do you explain the same seasonality when it is observed in Italy, Greece and Spain ? spain had years with 1.5 million Mt and others with 850,000 Mt.

I guess a drought on one side of the globe is called traditional production techniques in an other.

All the best,
Wajih Rekik