ITES notes on National Dialogue on Agriculture to be held on January 22, 2019 in Beja governorate

The Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies will hold a National Dialogue on Agriculture on January 22, 2019 in Beja governorate, with the presence of all the actors and experts in the field of agriculture.

In this connection, the agricultural sector achieved a growth rate of 8.4% in 2018 compared to 2.5% in 2017. It also contributed by 0.8 points in the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with a growth which reached 2.5%, and ranked second in terms of contributions. Agriculture in Tunisia has the lowest investment credits (1550 million dinars) which represents 7.8% in 2018.

The year 2017 witnessed a significant decline in the number of active workers in the sector, as 12,200 workers lost their income sources in this sector due to drought and poor investment in the interior areas which are characterized by abundant agricultural land.

The minimum farm wage (SMAG) jumped by 5.7% or 736 millimes per working day to reach 13.736D. In addition, the “technical reward” of the specialized workers increased by 775 millimes to reach 14.468D/day and the skilled workers’ by 810 millimes, which raised their wages to 15.113 D/day.
The food balance deficit in 2017 reached a high level of 1,355 million dinars despite the recovery in the sales of some foodstuffs especially during the last quarter of the year, mainly olive oil and dates.

During the year 2018, exports with constant prices increased in many sectors, the most important is the sector of agriculture and food industries, which recorded an increase of 42.2% compared to the same period in 2017. The exports of the agricultural sector in 2018 amounted to 5410.1 million dinars, with a growth rate of 45.2%, while imports of the agricultural sector amounted to 6474.6 million dinars, thus achieving a growth rate of 11.9%, and we ended up with an estimate of the trade balance deficit of 1064,5 dinars.

1) Large-scale farming

The size of the major agricultural production in 2016 was 1.3 million tons distributed as follows

The areas allocated for grain cultivation, 1127 thousand hectares distributed as follows:

The grain sector is characterized by a chronic inability to meet internal needs and to provide permanent self-sufficiency. Over the past 20 years, average coverage rates for wheat, barley, and normal wheat have been 72%, 64% and 21%. The profitability of grain cultivation is highly correlated with climatic factors, especially rain, resulting in a sharp annual fluctuation in yield ranging from 0.5 to 2 tons for solid wheat, from 0.5 to 2.5 tons for soft wheat and 0.4 to 1.5 tons for barley.

The correlation between grain cultivation and climatic factors is one of its main weaknesses. The weak rainfall recorded over many years affects the producers’ income, their economic conditions and their ability to cope with the challenges resulting from poor yield.

Therefore, the grain sector should be supported as one of the most important pillars of food security by tightening the implementation of sectoral strategies which aim at improving productivity and enhancing the competitiveness of products by supporting farmers and providing production requirements in the best conditions to ensure the success of the agricultural seasons.

That can also be done by:
-Improving the income of farmers of major agricultural crops through the integration of livestock breeding and the creation of mechanisms to link the two sectors, enabling farmers to diversify sources of income and strengthen their links to the land and agriculture as a whole.

– The integration of new technologies that are of interest to irrigation and agriculture techniques in the production sector and that is by supporting the farmers financially to meet the costs of their use and setting them up by forming technical teams in partnership with various developmental structures and professions.

Support for food security requires the provision of seeds and adapted nurseries with the necessary support for scientific research programs and in particular for those in which we have differentiated advantages.

2) Livestock:

Distribution of livestock according to the regions:

North–Centre– South–Total
Cows– 455,5– 204,4– 25,9 685,8
Sheep– 2535,3–2824,7–1125,7 6485,6
Goats– 348,4– 339,2– 511,9 1199,5

Unit: Thousand animals

Year: 2016
Cows 114000
Sheep 109800
Goats 22600
Poultry 186400
Other 103800
Total 536600
Eggs (Million Egg) 2059

The raw meat product comes mainly from beef, sheep and goats, which reached 246.4 thousand tons, representing 98% coverage. But strategically, the sustainability of this sector is very low, because it has evolved, but it still depends to a large extent on the importation of cattle feed, which has become very expensive because of the deterioration of the dinar value.

From an economic point of view, the sustainability of the sector depends to a large extent on the maintenance of state subsidies. In terms of economic sustainability, the red meat sector suffers from unregulated interventions by many stakeholders, affecting the technical and commercial quality that does not raise the value added of the products adequately. As a result, the expected revenues of the producers are reduced, forcing them to sell livestock and search for other profitable livelihoods.

However, this sector is characterized by the operation of a large number of workers in the form of family farms, and the preservation of this sector needs the linking with plant production in a manner that effectively contributes to the improvement of the profitability of the sector.

3)-Fish farming:

Fish farming represented 17% of the production of the Fishing industry in 2017, achieving an augmentation of 34% compared to 2016. In terms of operational capacity of the sector, it does not exceed 2% of the total fishermen working in the fishing sector.

Regarding the level of aquaculture production in 2017, it amounted to 21,870 tons compared to 3,738 in 2008. Despite this development, the sector is suffering from many problems, especially the number of structures involved in the granting of licenses, the complexity of the completion of the projects, in addition to the huge costs of the projects that adopt modern technology, the long period needed to the growth of the fish demands big funds, and finally the difficulties faced by the investors regarding financing those projects.

The dependence to the importation represents an important obstacle in this field, also the losses due to climatic and environmental conditions add up to the reluctance of insurance companies to cover this activity.
To ensure the development of the investment in the aquaculture sector, the optimal exploitation of the available resources and overcoming obstacles and their negative impact is needed, through diversifying the product, by using the results of scientific research in the breeding of new varieties. In addition, the establishment of projects for the production and consolidation of fish to put pressure on the cost of exploitation expenses for fish breeding, as well as follow-up sites of aquaculture with an attention to the environmental dimension to ensure the sustainability of the projects.

The intensification of the supervision of the promoters specialized in the techniques to ensure the development of the productivity, is a key factor in the success of this sector. Ensuring that aquaculture products are valued and promoted fairly and under a mark of quality helps enhance their competitiveness in foreign markets.
The integration in a specialized professional structure remains the main priority, because that would confirm the priorities of the sector’s investors to form companies producing the sector’s requirements and to enable them to have fiscal and financial privileges, like the other sectors.

4) Vulnerabilities and threats related to social aspects:

The agricultural sector faces many problems that concern the demographic composition of the active labor force such as old age and the lack of training. The average age of farmers is over 50 years; more than 43% are over the age of 60, while those under the age of 40 represent only 13% of farm owners.

Illiteracy affects about 46% of farmers and 84% of farmers are estimated to have not reached primary education. The aging of the farmers is linked with a very low level of education and a poor training.

In general, because they cannot obtain adequate vocational training, Tunisian farmers lack the professional qualifications they need to manage the farms in a proper way that is based on rules of conduct that are capable of raising the productivity without raising costs.
This also applies to seasonal labor, which is often of a low-quality and unable to contribute effectively to the mechanization of farms or even the proper use of insecticides. This structural shortage of qualifications usually results in low levels of agricultural production and low productivity.

Jobs in the agricultural sector are characterized by their instability due to the long working hours, low wages, harsh working conditions and sometimes the absence of social rights.

The maximum legal period of 2,700 hours per year for workers in the agricultural sector is the highest compared to other sectors. Thus, the agricultural worker is required to work for 9 hours a day while the worker in other sectors is asked to work for 8 hours. In addition, female workers are paid 25% less than male workers, and in family farms 58% of the workers are females that are not paid because their work is seen as a form of family assistance.


– Solving the real problems underlying in the low rate of farmers’ involvement in the social coverage, especially those with weak economic status due to the effects of natural disasters, the accumulation of indebtedness in addition to the creation of an appropriate legislative framework in this field that takes into account the specificities of the agriculture sector.
-Providing health insurance for the workers.
-Improving the workers’ wages and assuring all of their rights.


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