GIEWS Country Brief: Tunisia 24-November-2016


  • Favourable conditions for planting of 2017 winter grain crops

  • Below average cereal harvest gathered in 2016 due to lack of precipitation in beginning of season

  • Relatively stable domestic grain prices observed

  • Economic growth slows down again; high unemployment rates, in particular among young people, remains a concern

Favourable conditions for planting of 2017 winter grain crops

Sowing of winter grains usually starts in mid-October and concludes in mid-December. So far, this agricultural season dry weather facilitated field preparation and early winter grain sowing. Although above-average temperatures prevailed, soil moisture remained satisfactory due to above-average rainfall since 1 September.

Normal availability of seeds and fertilizers is reported. 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 planted area.

Below average cereal harvest gathered in 2016

Although favourable weather conditions prevailed for most of the 2016 season, the lack of precipitation in the beginning of the crop year limited the area sown with winter cereals. 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.

Consequently, a well below‑average cereal harvest of 1.4 million tonnes was gathered in 2016. At this level, production was 9 percent higher than previous year’s below‑average crop but 27 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 2016/17 marketing year (July/June) are put at about 3.9 million tonnes, about 4 percent lower 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 rate 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 October 2016 recorded an increase of 2.7 percent on a year‑on‑year basis, compared to over 3 percent in October 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 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.