TUNISIA – One of the countries in North Africa, Tunisia, is planning to invest 13 million dinars (US$4.3 million) to implement a project aimed at increasing its cereal storage capacity in the city of Bizerte.
The planned investment by the country’s Cereals Office (OC) was revealed by Abdelmonem Belati Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, on July 14th.
Tunisia is a net importer of wheat and barley, and while drought has persisted in the country for many years, the authorities expect a further increase in imports in 2023/2024.
According to information relayed by the local daily Africanmanager, this new initiative should make it possible to increase the storage capacity of the silo operated by the OC in the port of Bizerte to 30,000 tonnes, against a current level of only 13,000 tonnes.
The announcement comes as 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.
Over the period under review, purchases of wheat on the international market are expected at 2.2 million tonnes against 1.8 million tonnes previously according to USDA data, while those of barley should increase from 650,000 tonnes to 900,000 tonnes.
In Tunisia, the Cereals Office operates two other port silos with a total capacity of 60,000 tonnes based respectively in the towns of Radès and Gabès, for storing and redistributing imported cereals.
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.
Additionally, earlier on, in May, the EU launched a support fund of US$19.5 million to support cereal production in the country.
Such measures are especially important in the face of persistent supply chain disruptions globally and drought in some major grain producers like Argentina.
For example, earlier this week, Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative, which means that Ukraine, one of the largest producers and exporters of wheat, will have to use other routes, which will be expensive, to export its grains.
The need for localization is, therefore, paramount to ensuring food security in countries that have essentially been net importers of food.