Machinery and Equipment

Drastic drop in grain production … the inevitable recourse to imports!

All sectors have been hit this year by the coronavirus crisis… an unprecedented crisis that has swept almost everything.

Tourism, the industrial and cultural sectors have all been hard hit. This crisis has also exposed the weakness of Tunisian infrastructure and the inequalities suffered by certain groups of the Tunisian social class.

The spread of the coronavirus forced the government to decree a general lockdown and then a gradual and targeted deconfinement in order to contain the virus. This has made the agricultural season increasingly worse.

 While the government was hopeful and focused on agriculture…that sector was not spared by this cursed virus.

In fact, grain collection estimates ranged from 7 to 8 million quintals compared to 12.9 million quintals last season.

Indeed, in a statement given to  TAP, Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, Osama Kheriji on Monday spoke about this issue with more details.

The grain harvest for the 2019/2020 season is expected to be around 15.7 million quintals (1.5 million tons), compared to a record harvest of 24 million quintals (2.4 million tons) last season, he said.

The Grain Board has been forced to purchase and contract quantities of grain to cover needs until the end of the current year.

Harvest down…

Difficult and adverse weather conditions negatively impacted the season. Insufficient rainfall in January, February and mid-March impacted on plant growth in most production zones, with the negative impact of the lack of rainfall in known production zones such as Kef, Siliana and Zaghouan.

On the other hand, the rains recorded during the second half of March and in April helped improve the general situation in the perimeters and saved most of the crops,” he explained.

Preparations under way… despite the crisis

The Minister of Agriculture also reviewed the main preparations for this year’s harvest season.

The collection centres and the provision of the necessary means such as bags, wires and combine harvesters have been refurbished, according to him.

In addition, it is planned to mobilize about 3600 combine harvesters of which 3100 machines are available in the Northern governorates and 453 in the Central and Southern governorates.

Following the general lockdown decreed two months ago, preparations for the agricultural season have been suspended.

This necessitates making up for these losses during this period. ”In coordination with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture is working to apply all preventive health measures, namely social distancing during the harvest operation which coincides with the targeted gradual deconfinement,” he pointed out.

Is Tunisia facing a risk of shortage?

 Stocks are sufficient for two months, not counting this season’s harvest. For a possible import, the grain board has concluded purchases and contracts that will cover needs until the end of the year.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Tunisia depends on grain imports, mainly common wheat, even in years when production is good.

For the marketing year 2020/21 (July/June), grain import requirements are expected to amount to around 3.8 million tons, about 20% higher than imports in the previous marketing year and 5% above the five-year average.

The area sown with grain reached 1.160 million hectares out of a total of 1.325 million hectares planned, i.e. an implementation rate of 87%.

The total area sown is divided between durum wheat (542.5 thousand hectares (ha)), common wheat (63 thousand ha), barley (542 thousand ha) and triticale (12.5 thousand ha).

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