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Russia gears up for Tunisia's increasing wheat appetite

03 January 20242 min reading

In a recent announcement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that Tunisia is keen on boosting its grain imports from Russia. This revelation came following a meeting between Lavrov and Tunisian President Kais Saied, where plans to enhance bilateral cooperation, particularly in the agriculture and energy sectors, were discussed.

Sergey Lavrov expressed the increasing interest in expanding grain supply, citing the President of Tunisia's eagerness to strengthen ties in this crucial sector. Russia, with bumper harvests for the second and third years in a row, is well placed to meet growing demand, Lavrov said.

Tunisia is a major consumer and importer of foods, including wheat, and is representative of growing grain markets in North Africa and the Middle East. With an annual per capita wheat consumption rate of 258 kg, the country is eyeing increased grain imports to meet its growing needs. Total wheat consumption in the country is approximately 2.8 million tons annually. 

SHIFTING DYNAMICS IN WHEAT IMPORTS

The country relies heavily on grain imports, even in years with good domestic production. Grain import requirements in the 2023/24 marketing year are forecast at 4.7 million tons, about 30 percent above the average import requirements of the previous year. More than half of the imported grains is wheat. Between 2016 and 2020, the country sourced almost 40 percent of its wheat imports from Ukraine, 7 percent from Russia and the rest from various European Union countries. In 2022/23 marketing year, following the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, the share of Ukrainian exports on total wheat imports declined to slightly over 15 percent. Although Black Sea countries still supplied most of the imported wheat, shipments from Canada in 2022/23 have increased and accounted for almost 20 percent of total wheat imports.In the North African country, wheat cultivation is mostly rainfed, resulting in significant year‑on‑year variations. The irrigated wheat area represents less than 15 percent of the total wheat planted area. 2023 wheat output was estimated at 302 000 tons, almost 80 percent below the average.

Despite recurring droughts in the past years, the country still aims to increase self‑sufficiency in grain production. Policy instruments used by the government include, guaranteed farmgate prices, subsidized certified seeds, an irrigation water subsidy as well as the provision of technical assistance to farmers producing wheat on irrigated areas.

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