Tunisia - Agricultural Sector Tunisia - Agricultural Sector
In comparison with other countries in North Africa, agriculture plays a relatively modest role in Tunisia’s economy, accounting for 16% of the country’s workforce and 12% of the country’s GDP while growing at around 2% per year. While larger agricultural enterprises are increasingly prominent, the sector remains politically sensitive and heavily regulated. Due to historic and geographic reasons, the European Union heavily influences Tunisia on agriculture policy. Tunisia also maintains significant market controls in place throughout the agriculture value chain, which, to some extent, limits growth and investment opportunities. Public land may be leased from the government to private farmers or managed directly by the Ministry of Agriculture. Foreigners cannot own agricultural land but may obtain long-term leases.
The Food-processing Sector
In 2018, the food-processing sector accounted for an estimated 1,150 enterprises that each employed 10 people or more. Approximately 20% of these companies produce only for export. The production value of this sector is around $11 billion annually, and is continuously growing due to changes in eating habits towards consumption of processed products versus fresh ones. The food-processing sector’s demand for imported high-value ingredients is steadily increasing, with more sophisticated products licensed by multinational food companies. Cereals and products, oilseeds, vegetable oils, and sugar derivatives account on average for 90% of Tunisia’s food imports.
The Food Retail Sector
Over the last decade, the modern retail sector has seen in-depth development fueled by the expansion of modern distribution outlets, supermarkets, and hypermarkets through joint ventures with foreign investors. These have mostly been with France.
The Food Service Sector
In addition to domestic customers, this sector caters to the many tourists that visit Tunisia each year. Most hotels and restaurants either source their food needs through annual tenders or through the same distribution channels used by households. High-end hotels import spirits, wines, and specialty cheeses either directly or via import companies.
Tunisia is a net importer of agricultural products. In 2018, leading agricultural imports were wheat ($431 million), sugar ($204 million), soybeans ($162 million), vegetable oils ($160 million), corn ($145 million), and barley ($134 million). The leading agriculture-related exports were olive oil ($708 million), dates ($248 million), fish products ($154 million), and citrus ($7 million).
Tunisia applies an average import duty of 32% on U.S. agricultural exports, which, in 2016-18, averaged $163 million per year. In 2018, U.S. agricultural exports to Tunisia totaled $265 million, with soybeans and corn accounting for over 87%.
Tunisia is a beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). In 2018, Tunisia’s agricultural exports to the United States totaled $208 million, over 94% of which was accounted for by olive oil and dates. Tunisia supplies the United States with 30-45% of its imported dates and 5-15% of its imported olive oil.
The most significant market opportunities exist for goods and services supportive of the local agriculture and agro-processing industry, including soybeans and crude vegetable oil, feed grains and additives, modified starches, enzymes, genetics, grain silos, elevators, tractors, harvesters, irrigation systems, pesticides, and food processing/bottling machinery. The GOT offers tax incentives of up to 50% under the 2016 Investment Law to encourage acquisition of agricultural equipment. From 2017 to 2019, the United States and Tunisia also agreed on multiple health certificates to facilitate new market access for U.S. bovine and equine semen, day-old chicks and hatching eggs, breeding cattle, sheep and goats, beef, poultry, and egg products exports to Tunisia. Consumer-oriented products with prospects to perform best in the Tunisian market include tree nuts, dried fruit, condiments and sauces, dairy products, cookies and crackers, chocolate and cocoa, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) (http://www.fas.usda.gov) has an office in the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their reports, including an Exporter Guide, can be found online at http://gain.fas.usda.gov.