The Tunisian government says it expects citrus exports to rise to 20 000 tons in the 2017/’18 farming season, which is up from 18 800 tonnes in the last season.
According to new statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, there has been a surge in fresh citrus exports. At least 10 tons of organic oranges have been exported to date, compared to just 100 tons for the whole of last season.
Most of the exports were bound for the United States, France, Malta, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Almost 95% of the 346 000 tons of citrus fruit produced last season were Maltese oranges.
Despite the surge in demand for its agricultural produce, Tunisia faces many problems that may undermine productivity and force a reduction in exports, unless resolved urgently.
LOSS OF 50% OF ARABLE LAND BY 2050
According to a report released recently by the Tunisian Institute of Strategic Studies, the North African country will lose 50% of its arable land to direct and indirect encroachment by the Sahara Desert.
According to an analysis report prepared by institute head Neji Jalloul, Tunisia has more than 10 million hectares of agricultural land, with 5.25 million hectares fit for crop farming while 4.8 million hectares is for pasture.
Up to 1.6 million hectares of forests and plains are classified as flatlands devoid of water. Apart from desertification, Tunisia faces nationwide water scarcity amid indications that its annual rains have dropped by 20% in the past 10 years due to climate change.
The growth of Tunisia’s agricultural sector also faces drawbacks that include rural to urban migration, pervasive reluctance by youths to invest in agriculture, and operational issues such as lack of capacity to produce seeds locally.
Jalloul said despite still being able to produce nearly 40% of its national food requirements, Tunisia needs to increase the production of grains to beat rising food insecurity owing to climate change.