Lack of basic products occurs in Tunisia

Some basic products are missing from the market. For some time, Tunisian consumers have complained about the shortage of some foods, especially sugar. Is the shortage therefore remaining?

Since the beginning of 2022, the country has registered a shortage of certain basic products, especially due to the increase in international prices as well as the increase in the price of freight. However, with the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, things have become worse, especially since this region supplies a large part of the world with grain and especially the countries of North Africa, including Tunisia. In 2021, the country obtained 60% of its soft wheat imports and 66% of its barley imports with the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The results of the races saw Tunisia in March lacking various basic products such as vegetable oil, sugar, flour, semolina,…. These deficiencies have caused a shortage of foods that use these ingredients, such as bread.

A phenomenon that did not only affect Tunisia because, and just as an example, a country like France experienced a shortage of vegetable oil. This has of course led to rising prices internationally and record high inflation worldwide, making access to certain products difficult.

However, for the past few weeks, certain products have been missing from the market. Tunisian consumers cite a persistent shortage of sugar and even rice. There are even cookies that cannot be found due to lack of sugar. The problem is that, given the international situation, the situation is likely to get worse. First of all, the war in Ukraine destabilized the entire region and created global shortages, causing prices to rise, making it difficult for countries with limited resources like Tunisia to access certain foods.

Then the influx of Tunisians living abroad as well as tourists will certainly make things even worse and create additional demand. Finally, with the reopening of the land borders to Algeria, this will create additional demand.

Is the government ready to deal with this? Nothing has been communicated on this subject, but the only truth is that Tunisians have noticed the lack of certain products when the tourist season has only just begun.

In the meantime, and to guarantee Tunisians’ food security and considering Tunisia’s budget problems due to lack of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) aggravated by the war in Ukraine, several donors and friendly countries have mobilized to provide financial assistance. The World Bank recently announced that it had approved a $130 million loan to Tunisia to mitigate the effects of the war in Ukraine on the food situation. A loan that will finance soft wheat imports, which are vital to the country, and provide emergency support to cover barley imports for dairy production and smallholder seed needs for the next grain campaign.

According to the press release from the bank, the project aims to avoid disruptions in the supply of bread during the third quarter of 2022 by financing the urgent purchase of soft wheat equivalent to one and a half months’ consumption. The funding will also help Tunisia procure around 75,000 tonnes of fodder barley to meet the needs of small dairy farmers for about a month, as well as 40,000 tonnes of quality wheat seeds to ensure the next sowing campaign, which starts in October.

Idem and within the same framework, the Japanese government had decided last week to make a donation of one million US dollars to strengthen the Tunisian government’s capacity to mitigate the impact of shortages of wheat-based products and price inflation caused by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine . This donation will enable the World Food Program (WFP) to provide food aid to the most vulnerable population groups and will be implemented in three governorates: Kairouan, Kasserine and Siliana. In this context, WFP plans to support the Tunisian Ministry of Social Affairs to strengthen its capacity to implement improved food distribution across the country to approx. 75,000 needy families registered in the “Amen Social” program but not benefiting from any permanent cash transfers.

Tunisia is currently facing shortages of certain foodstuffs. The international situation and the influx of tourists and non-resident Tunisians may further aggravate the situation. Case to follow.

Meanwhile NOUIRA

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