Reference Date: 16-March-2016
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Relatively favourable prospects for 2016 winter grain crops despite erratic but well‑timed rains
Below average cereal harvest gathered in 2015 due to heat damage suffered towards end of season
Relatively stable domestic grain prices observed
Economic growth slows down again; high unemployment rates, in particular among young people, remains a concern
Relatively favourable prospects for 2016 winter grain crops
Sowing of the 2016 winter grains concluded in December. The agricultural season so far has been characterized by irregular, below average but well‑timed rains. From remotely‑sensed information, only a small share of land sown to cereals is currently affected by localized drought in the eastern part of the country. Unlike in the neighbouring countries affected by drought, winter grain prospects in Tunisia remain relatively favourable, pending normal weather developments for the rest of the season.
Normal availability of seeds and fertilizers was reported. Out of the planned 1.4 million hectares to be planted with cereals, some 1.2 million hectares materialized, with decreases in planting in less productive areas in the centre and in the south. Slightly less than 650 000 hectares of wheat and about 530 000 hectares of barley were planned. About 80 percent of the wheat grown is durum.
In Tunisia, crop production varies markedly from year to year because of the significant rainfall variations. The irrigated wheat area represents less than 15 percent of the total wheat area planted.
Below average cereal harvest gathered in 2015
Although favourable weather conditions prevailed for most of the 2015 season, excessively hot weather (up to 45 degrees Celsius) led to heat‑related damages to late developing wheat in its early grain‑filling stages. Consequently, a well below‑average cereal harvest of 1.3 million tonnes was gathered in 2015. At this level, production was 44 percent lower than previous year’s above‑average crop and 32 percent below the five‑year average.
Tunisia relies heavily on grain imports, mainly wheat, even in good production years. Accordingly, cereal import requirements in the current 2015/16 marketing year (July/June) are put at about 3.6 million tonnes, about 20 percent higher than last year and 15 percent higher than the five‑year average.
Domestic grain prices stable
In spite of the country’s high import dependency rate, changes in international grain prices do not fully translate into changes in domestic prices, mainly due to the Government subsidies on basic food items. Prices of wheat products, the main staple in the country, are relatively stable, as reflected by the very low inflation of bread and cereals (less than 3 percent on a yearly basis since January 2012). Overall, the food and beverage Consumer Price Index (CPI) in January 2016 recorded an increase of 1.4 percent on a year‑on‑year basis, compared to over 3 percent in November 2015.
Economic growth slows down again, unemployment rate remains high
The economy was slowly recovering from the 1.8 percent contraction in 2011, although the continuing risk of terrorist attacks and their negative impact on the economy, together with the slow recovery in the European Union (Tunisia’s main trading partner) are affecting on the recovery. Real GDP growth in 2015 was estimated by the Ministry of Finance at 0.3 percent.
The unemployment rate remains at a high level (15.3 percent in 2015, a slight decrease from the 19 percent in 2011). Youth unemployment (15‑29 year‑olds) remains particularly high reaching over 30 percent in 2012. Following the protests in early 2016, the Government announced programmes for new state jobs in an attempt to reduce unemployment.