USDA GAIN: Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed
08 May 2012
Total area planted to cereal crops in Tunisia in the 2011/12 season was initially estimated at 1.5
million hectare (HA), according to the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture?s data. Wheat planted area
was estimated at 850,000 HA, of which 700,000 HA were durum wheat and 150,000 HA of soft
wheat, while area planted to barley was estimated at 650,000 HA. In March 2012, area planted
estimate was revised down to 1.3 million HA, including 800,000 HA of wheat and 500,000 HA of
barley. The downward revision was mostly due to the loss of about 100,000 HA to heavy
precipitations and flooding, as well as the non planting of 50,000 HA area in several large scale
farms that used to belong to the ousted President?s family that are facing management difficulties.
More recently, the flood situation caused additional losses of 15,000 HA of cereal planted area,
mainly in the north western region of Tunisia.
The sowing of the new cereal crop was behind schedule, as most grain regions did not receive sufficient rainfall by mid September. From the end of September through October, there were heavy spells of rainfall that caused the flooding of some agricultural fields and forced farmers to delay sowing of their cereal crops. In some areas, the seeding of the wheat and barley crop was not completed until late November and December. Additional floods occurred in February in the northwestern region of Tunisia but they had limited overall impact on the crops, according to the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture.
Despite the flooding of some fields and the loss of more than 150,000 HA of grain area, the new wheat and barley crops are reportedly in good growing conditions. Some agricultural analysts believe that yields could to be about 15 percent higher than their normal levels. There are, however, some concerns about possible plant disease outbreaks in a few grain planted areas due to excess moisture and above normal weather temperature in early April.
For the PS&D tables, our preliminary estimate shows that total cereal production for the 2011/2012 season would be around 2.00 MT, with wheat production projected at about 1.45 million MT, while barley production estimated at 550,000 MT. We estimate that durum wheat would account for about 80 percent of total wheat production, while soft wheat would account for the remainder.
In 2010/11, Tunisia?s total cereal production was officially estimated at 2.3 million MT, more than double its production in the 2009/10 campaign. The relatively large cereal crop was mostly due to sufficient rainfalls and favorable weather conditions throughout Tunisia during the various stages of the crop development. According to a Ministry of Agriculture?s estimate, the national average yield for the 2010/11 crop was about 1.72 MT/HA, compared to 1.71MT reported in the season before. In the last 5 years, the yield of cereal harvest was officially estimated at about 1.73 MT/HA. According to non-government analysts, however, the national average yields are much lower than these figures and fluctuated sharply between 0.8 MT/HA and 1.8 MT/HA depending on rainfall conditions.
It is important to note that the only reliable data on actual cereal production estimates are those of the cereal quantities collected by the state run Cereal Office. In general, production estimates in Tunisia are usually made by the Ministry of Agriculture through an annual inquiry and there are no other sources to verify the information or check for their accuracy. Depending on the size of the crop in a given year, the quantity collected by the Office of Cereal accounts for 30 to 50 percent of total production.
In July 2011, the Tunisian Farmers? Union publicly contested the Ministry of Agriculture?s figures of the quantity collected arguing that the difference between the quantity collected and the quantity produced is not as large as the Ministry claims each year. For MY2010/11, the quantity collected officially was about 1.04 million MT, compared to 0.52 million MT in MY 2009/10 and 1.12 million MT in MY 2008/09.
FAS estimates of Tunisia?s grain production in the past 10 year have been considerably different from the Tunisian official estimates. Post estimate are based on available information on seeded areas, accumulated precipitations, the pace of rainfall across the country, independent analysts assessment of crop growing as well as historical statistical data of grain productions in Tunisia.
Tunisia has the highest per capita consumption of wheat in the North African region, estimated at
258 kg/year. Additional demand for wheat is usually driven by over two million visitors coming
each year from Algeria and Libya that have similar consumption patterns of wheat–based food
products. In 2011, due to the lack of security following the Tunisian revolution, the number of tourists visiting Tunisia registered a huge decline that resulted in significant drop of food
consumption by the tourism sector. In addition, there was a significant increase of re-exports of
semolina and wheat flour to Libya and as well as some smuggling activities. Usual Tunisian wheat
consumption is about 2.8 million MT, but in 2011 consumption rose to 3 million MT. It is projected
that wheat consumption will continue to remain close to this high level for the next few years.
Barley is consumed mainly as cattle feed in Tunisia and as a supplement feed especially during periods of shortages of pastures and forage crops, while corn is usually incorporated into ruminant feed and used as an ingredient in compounded feed for poultry. Tunisian barley consumption on average is estimated at about 750,000 tons while corn consumption is usually around 700,000 MT.
In CY 2011, Tunisian wheat imports totaled 1.58 million MT, a decline of 17 percent compared to
wheat imports in CY 2010. Shipments from the European Union (EU) countries such as France,
Greece and Italy, accounted for the majority of Tunisia?s wheat imports. Tunisia?s wheat imports
from the U.S., primarily durum wheat imported by private millers, totaled 32,000 MT in CY 2011,
and represented about a 2 percent share of the market. This is compared to U.S. of exports
114,000 MT in CY 2010, accounting for 6 percent market share. In the coming year, there is low
expectation of a significant increase in the U.S. share of the Tunisian wheat market unless the
current wheat purchasing policy undergoes major liberalization.
In the last few years, the state monopoly „Office des Cereales? purchasing policy has been more price-oriented and less emphasis has been given to the quality attributes of imported wheat. Private sector milling operators have often complained about the low milling quality of some imported shipments that have been forced on them by the Cereal Office. At the present time, private operators can import wheat directly but with a condition to re-export their final products and not to sell them in the Tunisian market.
The quantities imported in Tunisia on a calendar year basis fluctuate significantly depending on the size of the local wheat crop. The variations of wheat imports based on marketing years (June-May) are less significant than imports estimated on calendar year (CY January-December) basis. For MY 2011/12, Tunisia?s wheat imports are expected to reach 1.6 million MT, slightly lower than the 1.7 million MT imported in MY 2010/11. For MY 2012, imports are forecast to be lower than in MY 2011 and are projected to be around 1.5 million MT, slightly smaller than the quantity expected in MY2011. This would be likely due to a larger wheat crop projected this year, about 10 percent higher than production in the previous year. The bulk of wheat imports consist of soft wheat, a commodity of which Tunisia has a structural deficit regardless of the size of the local crop.
In CY 2011 total barley imports reached 237,000 MT, down from 429,000 MT in CY 2010. This decline in barley imports was mostly due to a significant increase in local barley production due to favorable weather conditions. It is worth mentioning that U.S. barley exports were absent in CY 2011, while they have made a notable return to the Tunisian market in CY 2010 with a few shipments totaling 60,000 MT. For MY 2011, it is projected that Tunisia?s barley imports could decline to 200,000 MT, with a further decline to about 150,000 MT forecast for MY 2012, reflecting expectations of a bigger local barley crop.
According to official data, Tunisia?s total corn imports in CY 2011 reached 850,000 MT, down from 889,000 MT imported in CY 2010. This was the second consecutive year that Tunisian corn imports exceeded 800,000 MT. U.S. corn exports to Tunisia declined to 62,000 MT in CY2011, from 227,000MT in CY 2011. This was mostly due to more competitive prices offered by Tunisia?s main exporters, Argentina and the Black Sea countries. As a result, the U.S. share of the Tunisian corn market declined to 7 percent in 2011, compared to 25 percent in CY2010. For CY 2012, Tunisia corn imports are projected to reach 790,000 MT, according to private importers.
Tunisia continues to implement a five-year strategy to boost its cereal production that started in 2008.The government?s goal is to reach a total cereal production of 2.7 million MT, which is considered necessary in order to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat consumption. To help reach this goal, the GOT implemented several measures that included:
- Increasing the total acreage dedicated to irrigated wheat from 80,000 HA to 120,000 HA, with a goal of producing 600,000 MT by 2012.
- Maintaining the farm-gate prices for wheat and barley at a relatively high level to encourage
local production, with an exceptional bonus of 20 DT/MT that was added in 2011. Current
farm-gate prices for cereals harvested (effective through August 31) are set as follows:
- 600 TD/MT for durum wheat ($429/MT)
- 450 TD/MT for soft wheat ($333/MT)
- 420 TD/MT for Barley ($296/MT)
- 25.4 TD/MT for durum wheat ($18.80/MT)
- 20.6 TD/MT for soft wheat ($15.25/MT)
- 17.15 TD/MT for Barley ($12.7/MT)
The Government of Tunisia continues to control most grain imports by issuing tenders to international traders specifying the size and quality of import shipments. The “Office des Cereales” continues to monopolize the importation of wheat based mostly on price considerations. In 2008, the government liberalized the barley market and authorized private sector companies to import. There are some indication that the government may consider a partial liberalization of the wheat sector and allow the private sector to participate in wheat imports. It is not certain if and when this partial liberalization will take place.May 2012
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