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Country Briefs

  Tunisia

Reference Date: 20-October-2020

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Near‑average cereal production harvested in 2020

  2. Cereal imports forecast to increase in 2020/21 marketing year

  3. Economy contracts and food price inflation increases mainly due to measures aimed to contain spread of COVID‑19

Near‑average cereal production harvested in 2020

Land preparation for sowing of the 2021 grain crop is currently ongoing under favourable weather conditions. Seasonal rains started in September with above‑average amounts in most cropping areas. Winter wheat and barley crops will be sown from early November, after the rains adequately replenish soil moisture. The Government estimates that 1.33 million hectares will be planted with wheat and barley in 2020 (for harvest from May 2021), up from the 1 million hectares planted in 2019 when lack of precipitation delayed plantings.

Harvesting of the 2020 winter grains finished in July. The season was characterized by well below‑average rainfall amounts in January and February, but abundant rainfall from mid‑March into early April coincided with the early stages of crop reproduction and improved yield prospects. The 2020 cereal production is estimated at a near‑average level of 1.5 million tonnes, over one‑third below the 2019 bumper harvest on the account of less favourable weather conditions and reduced plantings. Domestic crop production varies markedly from year‑to‑year because of significant rainfall variations. The irrigated wheat area represents less than 15 percent of the total wheat planted area.

The country aims to reach a domestic production of 2.7 million tonnes of cereals per year. Policy instruments used by the Government include, guaranteed farm‑gate prices (TDD 820/USD 288 per tonne of durum wheat, TDD 590/USD 207 per tonne of common wheat and TDD 530/USD 186 per tonne of barley, unchanged since 2019/20 marketing year), subsidized inputs, including irrigation water as well as the provision of technical assistance to farmers producing irrigated wheat.

The measures introduced to contain the spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic did not have a major impact on the cereal supply chains. However, a decline in domestic and external demand resulted in an oversupply of apples and dates. To support farmers affected by the decreased demand, the Government initiated a stockpiling and stock financing policy for olive oil and dates.

Cereal imports forecast to increase in 2020/21 marketing year

The country relies heavily on grain imports, mainly common wheat, even in years with good production. Reflecting an average domestic harvest, cereal import requirements in the 2020/21 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at about 4.1 million tonnes, about 14 percent above the imports of the previous marketing year and 10 percent above the five‑year average. More than half of the imported cereals is wheat, sourced mostly from Ukraine, the Russian Federation and the European Union.

Economy contracts and food price inflation increases

The economy contracted about 20 percent year on year in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 2 percent in the first quarter, mostly due to the collapse of the tourism sector resulting from travel restrictions aimed to contain the spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The decrease in employment opportunities is likely to have a severe impact particularly on the purchasing power of the informal sector workers. Following the start of the pandemic in March, the Government provided one‑off cash transfers to 623 000 households: the most vulnerable groups, including retirees, handicapped and poor families ranging from TND 100 (USD 34) to TND 200 (USD 68). Workers in the formal sector affected by the containment measures were provided unemployment benefits.

In spite of the country’s high import dependency rate, changes in international grain prices do not fully translate into changes in domestic prices as the Government’s universal food subsidy programme keeps prices of wheat products and vegetable oil stable. Overall, the food and beverage Consumer Price Index in September 2020 increased by 5.3 percent on a year‑on‑year basis, up from 3.9 percent in August, but remains below the levels of 7 percent recorded in October 2019. The food price inflation in September 2020 was mainly driven by the high prices of fresh foods.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.