TUNISIA – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and Tunisia have signed a loan agreement worth US$87.1 million (TND 267.56 million) to finance the Inclusive and Sustainable Development Support Programme for the Grain Sector (PADIFIC) aimed at increasing the country’s strategic grain storage capacity.

Economy and Planning Minister Samir Saied and AfDB Deputy Director General for North Africa Region Malinne Blomberg signed the loan, making it known that the offering will be repaid over 24 years, with a grace period of 4,5 years.

According to officials, the grant will enable Tunisia to increase grain storage capacity from two to three months’ requirements, through the rehabilitation and modernization of the Rades and Bizerte port silos, the creation of a new silo at Djebel Djeloud, and the relaunch of grain transport by rail.

This comes after the North African country announced plans to inject 3 million dinars (US$4.3 million) to implement a project aimed at increasing its cereal storage capacity in the city of Bizerte

In addition, the country, which is in the throes of a fifth consecutive year of drought, is expected to increase its cereal imports by almost 650,000 tons to make up for its production shortfall in 2023/2024.

At the signing ceremony, Minister Saied pointed out that the PADIFIC project is “particularly important” in terms of inclusive and sustainable investment, targeting both upstream and downstream parts of the cereals chain.

He added that with the project in place, the goal is to contribute to guaranteeing in the short term, with the help of other development partners including the World Bank (WB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), an uninterrupted supply of common wheat and barley to the domestic market.

A timely project

As much as Tunisia relies heavily on imports to sustain its domestic consumption of cereals, the country has ramped up efforts to improve local production to reduce overreliance on imports and promote localization. 

For example, in June this year, the Cereals Office announced plans to provide 70,000 tonnes of seeds for the 2024/2025 cereal campaign, strategically putting up measures to promote production in the next marketing year. 

The drought, however, has reduced the harvest to 250,000 tonnes of grain, compared with the national annual requirement of 3.4 million tonnes.

Saied added that this agreement is part of a strategy to consolidate the results of the Emergency Food Security Support Project in Tunisia (PAUSAT), aimed at boosting the resilience of the grain sector against external shocks and climate change.

Blomberg for her part, stated that the expected results of this project will find expression in additional production estimated at 1.6 million quintals of durum wheat and 1.2 million quintals of barley, as well as a reduction in losses associated with post-harvest storage, which will generate gains estimated at 115,000 quintals of grain.

The PADIFIC will therefore have a real impact on the food security of vulnerable populations whose diet is based essentially on grain-based products, as well as on the players in the processing chain (flour mills, bakeries, pastry shops, etc.).

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