TUNISIA: The three major challenges of Tunisian agriculture

"The major challenges facing Tunisian agriculture are to increase productivity and production and adapt manufactured products to the expectations of an increasingly urbanized population." Such were the findings of Jean-Paul Pellissier, Assistant Director of the International Centre for Mediterranean Higher Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM-IAMM) based in Montpellier (France). 

Addressing a workshop on the theme "Tunisian Agriculture, combining tradition and innovation", organised alongside the sixth edition of the Tunisia Investment Forum (9 to 10 November 2017), Mr. Pellissier indicated that it was also important to gain a foothold on new export markets in view of contributing to redressing the country's foreign trade balance. To do so, emphasis should be placed on biotechnology to ensure better productivity from land to innovate in the area of new varieties, offering increased resistance to drought, pesticides and capable of even being grown in saltwater, given the scarcity of water. 

In this regard, the representative of FAO for North Africa in Tunis pointed out that only technology can improve the yield of land, adding that biotechnology refers to techniques which do not always mean GM (genetically modified) food, whilst emphasising the resilience of Tunisian agriculture which could, he said potentially account for up to 20% of Tunisian GDP. 

He called for an increase in investment and was supported in this opinion by the Director-General for finance, investment and professional bodies at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries who noted that "The growth process is closely linked to investment."

Referencing organic farming, the Director-General for organic agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, reminded attendees that Tunisia had been awarded equivalence status with regard to the European system for organic crop growing, and is also recognised by Switzerland, adding that Tunisian organic products are exported to 40 countries on all five continents. 

Summarising the situation of agriculture in Tunisia, the Secretary of State for Water Resources and Fisheries reiterated the decline in soil quality, lack of water, high urban development, climate change and various forms of waste (water, soil) evaluated at 30% in addition to the unsuitability of certain seeds to production zones. He voiced the view that the agriculture of the future is actually a series of factors, starting with the choice of crops and going as far as the mix between research and development and widespread deployment. 

Sources: webmanagercenter.com