TUNISIA – Tunisia’s state-owned Office of Cereals has proposed a potential purchase agreement with Russian grain companies, in a bid to secure regular shipments at a fixed price range.

This development was announced by Agroexport, Russia’s state agricultural export agency, following a historic meeting between representatives of Russian and Tunisian grain companies.

The meeting, which was mediated by the Ministers of Agriculture from both nations, marks the first of its kind.

The proposed grain deal includes a variety of grains, such as hard and soft wheat, barley, corn, oats, legumes, and vegetable oils.

This initiative follows Russia’s commitment to increase its wheat exports to Tunisia, highlighted during a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar in Moscow last September.

Tunisia, grappling with fluctuating and declining harvests due to rising temperatures and prolonged droughts, has been striving to stabilize its grain supply.

“Tunisia meets about 70 percent of its grain needs through domestic production, but the harvest greatly varies from year to year due to weather factors,” explained Salwa Ben Hadid Zouari, Director General of Tunisia’s Office of Cereals, during the meeting in Tunis.

Zouari added that since grain is grown in non-optimal climate zones, the country is seriously dependent on imports, a situation that has been exacerbated by rising temperatures and prolonged droughts.

In 2023, Russia exported 1.1 million tonnes of grain to Tunisia, a significant increase from previous years.

Representatives from Tunisia’s leading grain-producing companies, who attended the Tunis meeting, expressed a strong sense of optimism. They believe that expanding partnerships with Russia could significantly mitigate the inconsistency of grain reserves in the local market, providing a more stable supply for the country.

Anouar Douma, a trader at La Rose Blanche Group (Medigrain), stated, “We clearly know the potential of Russian exporters, and we want to work with them directly with the support of the Tunisian Government. We have all the necessary tools to form long-term relations.”

Tunisia’s pivot towards Russia and other non-Western partners comes amid stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding a bailout loan. President Kais Saied has repeatedly rejected the IMF’s proposed terms, which include cuts to public spending, prompting Tunisia to seek alternative economic partners.

Compounding Tunisia’s challenges is a severe water shortage, with dam filling rates as of June 2024 not exceeding 31.5 percent.

According to a report by the National Observatory of Agriculture (ONAGRI), the country’s water reserves have decreased by 12.8 percent between 2023 and 2024 and by 24.2 percent over the past three years.

This water crisis has impacted agriculture and led to frequent drinking water shortages in certain regions, especially during the summer months.

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