Tunisia - Agricultural SectorTunisia - Agricultural Sector
Within 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 around 2% per year. While larger agricultural enterprises are increasingly prominent, the sector remains politically sensitive and heavily regulated. Owing to deep-rooted cultural and trade ties, Tunisia has been heavily influenced by the European Union in agriculture policy. Tunisia also maintains significant market controls in place throughout the agriculture value-chain, which to some extent, limit 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 2017, the food-processing sector accounted for an estimated 1,100 enterprises employing 10 people or more, 20% of them producing only for export. The production value of this sector is around $10 billion annually, and is continuously growing due to improved household purchasing power and 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. Agricultural and food imports by the food-processing sector were almost $2 billion in 2017 compared to $2.2 billion in 2010. 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 visiting 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 2017, leading agricultural imports were wheat ($432 million), sugar ($284 million), vegetable oils ($263 million), corn ($216 million), soybeans ($192 million), and barley ($110 million). The leading agriculture-related exports were olive oil ($420 million), dates ($232 million), and citrus ($9 million).
Tunisia applies an average import duty of 32% on U.S. agricultural exports, which in 2015-17, averaged $160 million. In 2017, U.S. agricultural exports to Tunisia were in total $125 million with soybeans and corn oil accounting for over 85% of the total.
Tunisia is a beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). In 2017 Tunisia’s agricultural exports to the U.S. totaled $88 million, over 90% of which included olive oil and dates. Tunisia supplies the United States with 30-45% of its imported dates and 5-10% 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 planting seeds and nursery products, 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, and in 2016, investment subsidies generally available to agriculture totaled $40 million. In 2017 and 2018, the U.S. and Tunisia also agreed on multiple health certificates to facilitate new market access for U.S. bovine semen, day-old chicks and hatching eggs, breeding cattle, and sheep and goat 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, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Tunisia does not presently allow the import of U.S. meat or poultry products.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) 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.
Tunisia Agribusiness Trade Development and Promotion