Today, Friday, the Tunisian authorities approved an exceptional increase in the price of receiving durum wheat by 10 dinars (3.3 dollars) per quintal, bringing the price upon receipt to 140 dinars (46.6 dollars), amid estimates that the crop would exceed two million quintals out of a total of more than 34 million tons. The country needs it to provide food.
The Federation of Agriculture and Fisheries (Farmers’ Organization) estimated the grain yield expected to be harvested from wheat fields at only 5.8% of the national needs, which raises imports to more than 94% in order to achieve sufficient grain during the next season.
This increase in the price of accepting durum wheat in official collection centers comes after the actors in the sector demanded an increase in order to collect the entire production of durum wheat, block the way for its promotion in parallel channels, and secure seeds for the next season.
Black market traders are competing with the state to buy grain crops this year, as the current price offer in parallel markets is 180 dinars per quintal, which increases the risk of crop leakage outside official collection centers.
Tunisia lost, due to the severe drought this year, more than 28% of the crop, compared to what was harvested last year, which was in the range of 7 million quintals.
Raising the price of grain before raising this year’s crops is a demand of about 500,000 farmers working in the large-scale agriculture sector, who have started protest movements to demand a change in agricultural policies in the country, support for local agriculture to enhance food security, avoid the repercussions of global market volatility, and cut off supply chains.
The Tunisian authorities are seeking, through the increase in the price of grain at production, to avoid a crisis in wheat stocks that may result from a further decline in domestic production affected by the dry seasons, and the increase in the prices of production inputs, which has caused the exclusion of small farmers from the activity of major agriculture.--
However, the Russian war on Ukraine imposed a new reality on countries that do not secure bread for their citizens from their own production.
Tunisia’s consumption of grain amounts to 3.4 million tons (1.2 million tons for each of durum and soft wheat, and one million tons for barley), according to the government’s Grain Office, and grain imports in Tunisia are adjusted according to domestic production rates.
The country’s grain imports average twice as much as domestic production, more than half of which comes from Russia and Ukraine. Last year, the authorities announced a 30% increase in local grain prices for the 2022 crop; With the aim of increasing the production of major agriculture and collecting as much grain as possible in order to reduce the resources allocated to supply and to enhance the country’s food security.
However, drought this year thwarted the plan to increase production and develop grain cultivation, which caused the crop to decline to only two million quintals, after initial expectations for the season indicated the possibility of collecting 3.5 million quintals.
The Ministry of Agriculture was planning to achieve self-sufficiency in durum wheat, starting in 2023, with a production of 12 million quintals, by stimulating production by raising the profitability of the sector, and increasing grain prices when purchasing from local producers.
The share of grain imports represented 56% of total food imports during the first quarter of this year, at a value of 11 billion dinars, registering an increase of 9.2% compared to March 2022.