Tunisia will be forced to import about 16 million quintals of wheat and barley after the drastic drop in cereal harvest for the 2012-2013 season.
The decline in cereal production is due in particular to the lack of rainfall especially in the cereal producing areas in the north and midland.
Secretary of State for Agriculture Habib Jomli, quoted by TAP news agency, said the grain harvest will not exceed this season 13 million quintals, against 22.7 million quintals during the last season, down 44%.
Some 7.235 million quintals were collected last week, he noted, adding that the collected amount will be the benchmarks on which will be determined the amounts the country has to import.
Mr. Jomli said that this drop in production will require the importation of quantities needed for local consumption, which will obviously be made in foreign currency, at a time when prices in the international market have seen a significant increase.
The average price of one ton of wheat is over 600 dinars, while barley sells for about 550 dinars per ton, he specified. This may affect the country’s foreign currency assets as well as the food trade balance and the balance of payments.
It should be noted that the average annual domestic consumption of cereals (wheat and durum wheat and barley) is estimated at 25 million quintals.
The Secretary of State noted that the current drought in the country has had a negative impact on agricultural production in general, and on crop and livestock production in particular.
He said that this has affected the central and southern regions, as well as large areas in the north, especially in Kef, Zaghouan and Siliana.
Mr. Jomli recalled that about 1.130 million hectares were sown during the 2012 – 2013 season, against 1.300 million hectares last season.
In addition, the harvested area reached 759,000 hectares currently, against 1 million hectares in the previous season. The areas affected by drought are estimated, according to the same source, at 548,000 ha located in the regions of Kef, Siliana and Zaghouan and in central regions, namely Kairouan, Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid which were affected by the shortage of rainfall, so much so that the harvest does not exceed 5 quintals per hectare.