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USDA GAIN: Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed

25 April 2013

USDA GAIN: Tunisia Grain and Feed Annual 2013USDA GAIN: Tunisia Grain and Feed Annual 2013

The Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture revised MY2013/14 wheat and barley planted area down from 1.5 million hectare to 1.13 million hectare due to insufficient rain during the planting season. However abundant and well distributed precipitation from mid-January to end of March has benefited the crop. Post estimates that total cereal production for the MY2013/2014 season will be around 1.50 million MT, with wheat production at about 1.15 million MT and barley production at about 350,000 MT. Wheat imports in MY2012/13 are expected to reach 1.7 million MT, an increase of 4.7 percent compared to wheat imports in MY 2011/12 with Russia and Ukraine accounting for 50 percent of the market share. For MY 2013/14, Post estimates wheat imports to reach 1.87 million MT.
USDA GAIN Report - Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed


According to the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, total planted area for wheat and barley for MY2013/14 is estimated at about 1.13 million hectares, 859,000 HA in the northern part of the country and 272,000 HA in the central and southern regions. The planted area is much lower than the 1.5 million hectares for which the government planned. The smaller planting acreage is due to the severe shortage of rainfall during November and December 2012. The precipitation registered until January 2013 represented 50% of the average rainfall received each year. Total acreage dedicated to irrigated wheat reached 88,000 HA, 10% less than the previous year. The overall seeding of the cereal crops was behind schedule in most regions as farmers, especially small ones, waited for rain to start sowing. Wheat planted area was estimated at 662,000 HA, of which 532,000 HA of durum wheat and 130,000 HA of soft wheat, while area planted to barley was estimated at 457,000 HA and triticale at 11,000 HA.

Despite the lack of rain during the planting period, the new wheat and barley crops are reportedly in relatively good condition. In fact, precipitation from mid-January to end of March was abundant and well distributed and should benefit the crop. Some analysts believe that yields could to be about 20 percent less than last year. There are, however, some concerns about possible plant disease outbreaks in a few grain planted areas due to excess moisture and the expected increase in temperature by early April.

For the PS&D tables, Post’s preliminary estimate for total cereal production for MY2013/2014 season is around 1.50 million MT, with wheat production projected at about 1.15 million MT and barley production estimated at 350,000 MT. Post estimates durum wheat will account for about 80 percent of total wheat production, while soft wheat will account for the remainder.

n MY2012/13, Tunisia’s total cereal production was officially announced at 2.2 million MT, almost the same level as MY2011/12. The relatively large cereal crop was mostly due to sufficient rainfall and favorable weather conditions throughout Tunisia during the various stages of crop development. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the national average yield for the MY2012/13 crop was a bout 1.70 MT/HA. In the last 5 years, cereal yield was officially estimated at about 1.73 MT/HA. However, according to private sector analysts the national average yield was 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 collected by the state run Cereals 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 accuracy. Depending on the size of the crop in a given year, the quantity collected by the Office of Cereals accounts for 30 to 50 percent of total production. After the revolution, 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.

Post estimates for Tunisia’s grain production during the past ten years have been considerably different from the Tunisian government’s official estimates. Post estimates are based on available information about seeded areas, accumulated precipitation, the pace of rainfall across the country, independent analysts’ assessment of crop growing conditions combined with historical statistical data of grain production in Tunisia.


Tunisia has one of the highest rates of per capita wheat consumption in North Africa, estimated at 258 kg/year. Additional demand for wheat is usually driven by over one million visitors coming each year from Algeria and Libya that have similar consumption patterns of wheat–based food products. In the last two years, due to the lack of security following the Tunisian revolution, the number of tourists visiting Tunisia declined and this resulted in a significant drop of food consumption by the tourism sector. In addition, there was a significant increase in re-exports of semolina and wheat flour to Libya, as well as some smuggling activities. Tunisia’s annual wheat consumption is about 2.7 to 2.8 million MT, and wheat consumption is expected to remain high over the next few years.

Barley is consumed mainly as cattle feed in Tunisia and as a supplement feed especially during shortages of good pasture land and forage crops, while corn is usually incorporated into ruminant feed and used as an ingredient in compound feed for poultry. Post estimates Tunisia’s barley and corn consumption at about 850,000 tons per year for each product.



For MY 2012/13, Tunisian wheat imports are expected at 1.7 million MT, an increase of 4.7 % compared to wheat imports in MY 2011/12. Shipments from Russia and Ukraine accounted for 50% of the wheat imported while Canada, South American countries and European Union (EU) countries such as France, Spain and Italy accounted for the rest. Tunisia’s wheat imports from the U.S., primarily durum wheat imported by private millers, totaled 20,000 MT in M Y 2012/13 and represented about a 1 percent share of the market. In the coming year, the U.S. market share for wheat is not expected to grow significantly 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 with less emphasis given to the quality attributes of imported wheat. Private sector millers have often complained about the low milling quality of some imported shipments that have been forced on them by the Cereals Office. At present, private operators can import wheat directly but only if they re-export their final products and do not sell the products in the Tunisian market. Some private millers could expand imports from the US in the next coming years.

For MY 2013/14, imports are forecast to be higher than in MY 2012/13 and are projected to be around 1.87 million MT. This would likely be due to a minor wheat crop projected this year, about 15 to 20 percent less than the 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.


For MY 2012/13 total barley imports are estimated around 405,000 MT, up from 287,000 MT in MY 2011/12 with Russia and Argentina dominating 70% of the market share. It is worth mentioning that U.S. barley exports continued their absence in 2012, while they have made a notable return to the Tunisian market in 2010 with shipments totaling 60,000 MT. For MY 2013/14, it is projected that Tunisia’s barley imports could increase to 500,000 MT, reflecting expectations of a less important local barley crop.


Tunisia’s total corn imports in MY 2012/13 will reach 917,000 MT, 12.2% more than the quantity imported in MY2011/12 (817,000 MT). This is the second year that Tunisian corn imports exceeded 900,000 MT. U.S. corn exports to Tunisia declined significantly to 5,000 MT in 2012, from 109,000MT in 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 becomes insignificant after having reached 25 percent in 2010. For MY 2013/14 , Tunisia corn imports are projected to stabilize around 900,000 MT, according to private importers. The table below shows Tunisia corn imports by country of origin in the last three years. It should be noted that official Tunisian figures for corn imports are significantly different from U.S. Trade data, maybe due to lag in reporting import shipments.


Production Policy

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 price policy for wheat and barley at a relatively high level to encourage local production. In early 2012, a technical commission was set up in order to revise farm-gate prices for wheat and barley according to international prices and local conditions. In mid 2012, the commission decided to revise down the quality standard included in the ‘cahier de charge’ of the wheat delivered by farmers to the ‘’office des cereales’’. This will help to better pay farmer without any direct price increase that could impact the government finance. Millers protested against this measure expecting negative consequences on their activities. 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)

-To increase farmers’ use of certified seeds to 450,000 quintals. To continue price subsidies for certified varieties of cereal seeds at the following rate:

  • 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)

Trade Policy

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 is 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.

April 2013

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