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Tunisian Cereals Revised Down Due to Unpredictable Rainfall

09 May 2012
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

TUNISIA - Estimate of total area planted to cereals in Tunisia in the 2011/12 season was revised down to 1.3 million hectare, including 800,000 HA of wheat and 500,000 HA of barley. The downward revision was due to the loss of about 100,000 HA to flooding and the non planting of a 50,000 HA area of several large scale farms.

The sowing of the new crop was behind schedule, as most grain regions did not receive sufficient rainfall by mid September. There were heavy spells of rainfall from the end of September through October that forced farmers to delay sowing of their crops.

The new wheat and barley crops, however, are reportedly to be in good growing conditions, and some believe that yields could be 15 per cent higher than average levels. It's estimated 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 is estimated at 550,000 MT.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Tunisia's total cereal production in 2010/11 was declared at 2.3 million MT, while most agricultural experts estimated production to be about 1.8 million MT. It is important to note that the only reliable official figures of actual cereal production in Tunisia are those of the quantities collected by the state run Cereal Office.

In July 2011, however, the Tunisian Farmers' Union publicly contested the Ministry of Agriculture's figures of the quantities of wheat collected from last year's crop, arguing that they are not as large as the Ministry claimed. 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.

Usual Tunisian wheat consumption is estimated at about 2.8 million MT, but in 2011 consumption rose to three million MT, due to the significant increase of Tunisian re-exports of semolina and wheat flour to Libya and as well as some smuggling activities. It is projected that wheat consumption for the next few years will continue to remain close to that high level of 2011. Tunisia's barley consumption on average is estimated at about 750,000 tons while corn consumption is usually around 700,000 MT.

Tunisian wheat imports in CY 2011 totaled 1.58 million MT, a decline of 17 per cent compared to imports in CY 2010. Shipments from the EU countries such as France, Greece and Italy, accounted for the majority of Tunisia's wheat imports. Tunisia's wheat imports from the US, primarily durum wheat totaled 32,000 MT, about a two per cent share of the market.

Barley imports in 2011 totaled 237,000 MT, down from 429,000 MT in 2010, mostly due to the increase in local production in 2011. Tunisia's corn imports in CY 2011 reached 850,000 MT, down from 889,000 MT imported in CY 2010. Corn exports from the US declined to 62,000 MT in CY2011, compared to 227,000 MT in CY 2011.

The Government of Tunisia continues to implement it its strategy targeted at boosting cereal production that started in 2008. Through its cereals office, the government continues to control wheat imports by issuing tenders to international traders with import criteria based mostly on price considerations.

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