Today, organic prickly pear seed oil has become the spearhead of the new Tunisian cosmetics industry. In order to position Tunisia as a leader in this field, Tunisian institutions, with the support of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), have published a technical standard for prickly pear seed oil. Tunisia has thus become the first and only country in the world to standardize the characteristics of this oil. This new standard will further encourage Tunisian exports in the cactus sector, which continue to show a clear upward trend despite the global economic crisis.
Organic prickly pear seed oil has become the undisputed spearhead of the new Tunisian cosmetics industry. This precious anti-aging product is exported from Tunisia to all five continents, and sells for hundreds of dinars a liter. In order to position Tunisia as a leading country in the production of prickly pear seed oil, and to guarantee optimum standardized quality for this highly prized cosmetic product, the National Institute for Standardization and Industrial Property (Innorpi Tunisie) has published the Tunisian standard for prickly pear seed oil under code NT:118.152 (2021). Tunisia has thus become the first and only country in the world to standardize the characteristics of this precious oil, reflecting the importance the country attaches to this strategic sector.
Work on preparing the standard began 2.5 years ago, thanks to a public-private collaboration that saw the participation of several stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Association nationale du développement du cactus (Anadec Tunisie), which since 2018 has brought together companies in the sector and was behind the request to prepare the standard. The process of developing the standard was supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as part of the Pampat project funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).
The standard sets out the technical specifications as well as the quality and composition criteria for Tunisian prickly pear seed oil. This official reference determines the limit values for each physico-chemical parameter, enabling Tunisian operators to ensure the required quality and guarantee product conformity.
This new standard will certainly contribute to the development of the sector's exports. According to a survey carried out by UNIDO, international sales account for around half the turnover of Tunisian cactus processing companies, and have shown a clear upward trend even during the year 2020, which was marked by the global economic crisis.
Indeed, the sector continues to be on a roll. The number of cactus processing companies has risen from five in 2014 to 42 in 2020 across the country.
The great success of the industry's flagship product, prickly pear seed oil, is due to its many dermatological benefits. This beauty elixir is rich in Omega 6 and vitamin E. In fact, clinical studies carried out in 2020 by Onudi have confirmed that certified organic Tunisian prickly pear seed oil is a genuine beauty elixir, with anti-spot, anti-dark circle, anti-wrinkle and firming effects.
The clinical studies took place over a 28-day period in a renowned international laboratory and involved a population of women aged between 45 and 65, who applied the protocol to determine the efficacy of Tunisian oil. A total of 97 % of the volunteers who followed the protocol for applying the oil during the clinical study confirmed their satisfaction with the product's characteristics and efficacy, and expressed their intention to continue using it.
Clinical studies and the Tunisian standard for prickly pear seed oil will enable Tunisian operators to better seize opportunities in foreign countries. According to Onudi, all these signals point to a bright future for the product spearheading the new Tunisian cosmetics industry, and confirm that the potential of this nascent sector is far from yet being tapped.