Agriculture in Tunisia
The Republic of Tunisia is a country situated in North Africa and sandwiched between the much larger countries of Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast. Tunisia is bounded on the north and east by the Mediterranean. Well over half of Tunisia's total area is of limited value or is useless for agriculture. The agricultural sector is contributing 12.6 % of GDP and employing almost one quarter of the country's labour force. In 2020, the food-processing sector accounted for an estimated 1,240 enterprises that each employed 10 or more people. Approximately 20% of these companies produce only for export.
Two-thirds of the population (11,8 million people in 2021) is in the northern third of the country, north of the two Atlas Mountain chains. The most valuable agricultural region is the Tell, the area north of Dorsale Tunisienne, the southern massif of the Atlas ranges . Here a Mediterranean climate prevails. Cork oak forests are in the northwest areas, while north central Tunisia has excellent land for cereal crops and grazing. There is a variety of agricultural production in the northeast, where good crops of cereals, olives, grapes1 citrus fruits, and garden vegetables are grown.
On the central plateau, south of Dorsale Tunisienne to Djebel Cherb, Mediterranean and desert climatic influences are combined. The land is sui table for dry cultivation of grains and for grazing. Tunisia's most extensive olive groves lie in the eastern coastal regions between the Gulfs of Hammamet and Gabes. South of Djebel Cherb, Saharan agriculture is limited to alfa (esparto) grass ranges and oasis agriculture. The principal agricultural regions receive from 16 to 24 inches of rainfall annually. The range is from about 6o inches in the extreme northwest Kroumirie highlands to less than 4 inches in the desert. Even in good agricultural areas, dry summers and spasmodic rainfall the rest of the year tend to make production uneven from season to season. Tunisia is a net importer of agricultural products. In 2020, leading agricultural imports were wheat ($569 million), Soybeans ($236 million), barley ($201 million), corn ($200 million), vegetable oils ($177 million), and sugar ($135 million). The leading agriculture-related exports were olive oil ($824 million), dates ($262 million), fish products ($145 million), and citrus ($6 million).
For centuries, grains and olives for oil have been Tunisia ' s most important agricultural products and main foods. Other principal crops, shown in table 2, are grapes for wine, dates, citrus, and other fruits, pulses, and market garden crops. Alfa grass, customarily classified as a forest product, is an important source of revenue in south central Tunisia. The major grains are wheat and barley. In the north, production is mostly by mechanical means. Production in the centre and south is .mainly by traditional methods. Average yields are low. As in other north African countries, the yield on modem Tunisian farms may be more than twice as high on farms handled by traditional methods. Most wheat is cultivated north of the Dorsale Tunisienne. Barley acreage in the north remains fairly static. The area that can be sown to this crop in the central and southern parts of the country fluctuates sharply each season with the timing of the fall rains. Ordinarily, about 2. 7 million acres are planted to cereals in the north. The area in wheat and barley in central and southern Tunisia varies from approximately 1.2 million acres to 2.6 million. More barley than wheat is consumed on the farm by growers. In central and southern Tunisia barley is the principal food grain. Hard wheat is grown mainly for the export market, principally for milling abroad into semolina for use in the manufacture of macaroni and similar pastes. Production of other wheat varieties is seldom sufficient for domestic consumption.
Second to cereals, olive oil is of greatest value to agriculture. Tunisia is by far the largest olive oil producing country in northern A:f'rica and the Middle East. Domestic production usually provides the fat requirements in the Tunisian diet. Exports of olive oil are an important-and sometimes the principal source of foreign exchange. Most olives used for pickling or dry processing are harvested in October or November of each year. The main crop for oil is harvested from November or early December through February. Two primary types of olive oil are produced--crude edible oils of the first and second pressings, and inedible industrial olive oil derived from the olive cake after initial pressings by solvents. The oilcake itself is mixed with bran for livestock feed or with straw and manure for use in nurseries. It is also used for fuel.Natural resources in many areas of Tunisia are suitable for grape-growing. Conditiona are particularly favourable in the coastal northeast near Tunis and on the Cap Bon Peninsula. The date palm is common to many parts of Tunisia, but it is most numerous fruit only in the south. Dates of the nonexport varieties are a staple human food. Inferior fruit and pits are fed to livestock. Fermented dates are the basis for Boukha, an alcoholic drink. The palm tree itself is used ingeniously—the roots for fuel and the stems in construction. Palm fronds are woven for windbreaks, shoes, mats, and receptacles. Palm fiber is used for rope-making, reins for animals, and for saddles.
Citrus industry is very important in Tunisia. Most of the present groves are on the coastal plains. Main growing areas are between Tunis and Cap Bon and near Nabeul and Hammamet. Plantations are small; about 90 percent are less than 25 acres in size. Oranges make up nearly 65 percent of total output. There are also lemons, mandarins, clementines (an early maturing, seedless fruit that is probably a cross between the mandarin and the orange), and various other citrus. Pomegranates are grown in many regions of Tunisia. Figs, apricots, plums, cherries, prunes, and a variety of berries are also produced. Deciduous orchards are mainly in the north. However, new experimental plantations are being laid out in the central highlands. Trial plantings of tropical fruits, such as bananas, guavas, and papayas, have been made in southeastern Tunisia.
In 2019, chicken constituted the predominant livestock production in Tunisia in terms of slaughtered heads. Indeed, over 103 million chickens were produced in the country in that year. Turkey ranked second, corresponding to approximately 12.4 million heads. On the other hand, horse and pig represented the smallest part of the meat production, amounting to only around seven and two thousand heads, respectively.
The cattle breeding in Tunisia contributes currently for about 24% to the animal production and represents close to 8% of the agricultural production. Composed essentially of local races (Brown of the Atlas) and observed mainly in North areas of the country, the bovine farming was supported by favourable climatic conditions. Cattle feeding are based on permanent pastures complemented by forage production integrated with cereal crops.Sheep and goats are in the Centre, and 80% of camels in the Centre and the South.
Forestry industry in Tunisia
Forests and woody vegetation cover a total surface area of 1.3 million ha in 2015 (FAO 2015) that represents 8% of the country surface area. It includes 1 million ha of forests and 0.3 Million ha of shrubs and other woody area. The total revenue of forest products has increased from 4.4 million TND to 16.2 million TND in 2014. The main forest products sold in 2014 are cork (49.1%), wood (25.5%) and other non-wood products (16.7%).
Fisheries industry in Tunisia
Fisheries and aquaculture play an important role in socio-economic terms and as a source of food. Both marine and inland species are currently being farmed. The main marine aquaculture production zone is in the Governorate of Sousse. A secondary marine aquaculture production zone is in the south of Tunisia (Gouvernorate of Médenine) where an average of 150 tonnes of European seabass and gilthead seabream are produced.
Most of the shellfish production (Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis and the Pacific cupped oyster, Crassostrea gigas) comes from northern Tunisia, and mainly from the Governorate of Bizerte, with production and varying widely from one year to the next. Over the past 10 years average production has been around 100 tonnes.
Inland aquaculture is mainly practised in the Governorate of Béjà, about 100 km to the west of Tunis, producing an annual average of 500 tonnes of freshwater fish (Liza ramado, Cyprinus carpio, Stizostedion lucioperca) and flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus). The most important species in terms of farming value are basically the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) alongside Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) produced by fattening fish taken from the wild.
Most of the production comprises native species. But some species have also been introduced into Tunisia, above all freshwater species such as the zander (Stizostedion lucioperca), largemouth black-bass (Micropterus salmoides), Chinese carp (grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idellus; silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp, Aristichthys nobilis) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).