Over 750 million olive trees are cultivated worldwide, 95% of which are in the Mediterranean region. Most of global production comes from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Olive growing is a feature of sociocultural life in many Mediterranean regions. Olive oil production and consumption is rising in the world driven by a public positive image.

The European Union is the largest producer (accounting almost three quarters) and consumer (accounting two thirds) of the olive oil in the world. About 95% of the olive production in the EU is concentrated in Spain, Italy and Greece.

Olive has been one of the most important sources of income for many civilizations throughout the history in the Mediterranean basin. Ancient Egyptians, Lydians, Ionians, Greeks, Romans, Seljuks and Ottoman civilizations have cultivated olives and produced olive oil. Phoenicians and especially the Romans are responsible for the spread of olives from the East Mediterranean to Spain.

Olive oil production in Tunisia has increased fourfold, making it the second world largest producer after Spain (2015). This is the first time Tunisia comes in second place in olive oil production figures, with yields estimated at 280,000 to 300,000 tons, a 400 % increase from last year’s figure of 70,000 tons. Tunisia’s olive oil exports represent 40 % of its agricultural exports and 10 % of total exports.

Lebanon is probably where olive oil originated: olives were cultivated in the Levant before the Phoenicians took the tree to the Greek islands around 1600BC and later to the Greek mainland, Italy, France, Spain and North Africa. While olive oil is very popular across Europe, Lebanon’s production remains small scale using traditional methods. Recent analysis of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) underline the opportunity to improve skilled labor, devoted research, and a number of public and private support initiatives, also make investments in olive oil highly attractive.