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Tunisia secures $520m in loans to attack food crisis

A worker threshes harvested wheat at a farm in Tunisia. The government has supplied wheat seeds to more than 16,000 small-holder farmers. Reuters
A worker threshes harvested wheat at a farm in Tunisia. The government has supplied wheat seeds to more than 16,000 small-holder farmers.
  • Support for smaller producers
  • Roads to be built and upgraded
  • 30% of children malnourished

The World Bank has approved loans worth $520 million to address Tunisia’s food security challenge, but experts are calling for the government to devise a new long-term policy.

A loan of $300 million will supplement the Emergency Food Security Response Project, which aims to minimise the impact of four consecutive years of drought in Tunisia, including a difficult cereal harvest in 2023. 

The project plans to streamline wheat imports and support small-scale producers by providing barley for milk production and climate-resilient seeds for wheat producers.



Since the food security project was launched in 2022, Tunisia’s government has sought to improve the country’s grain sector. 

Initiatives include measures to boost domestic production, reduce food waste, manage drought-related production risks and increase the added value in the cereals value chain – the series of steps to take a product from farm to shelf. 

So far under the project barley has been provided to 126,000 dairy farmers and wheat seeds to more than 16,000 smallholder farmers, which it is hoped will maintain a supply of bread by producing more than 160,000 tonnes of soft wheat.

The second loan to the $220 million Tunisia Economic Development Corridor project aims to reduce regional economic disparities along the Kasserine-Sidi Bouzid-Sfax corridor in central Tunisia.

New roads measuring 65km will be built and 117km of feeder roads upgraded. Part of the loan will be used to set up a fund to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized businesses in the region.

Tunisia is facing a financial crisis and has almost $4 billion in external debts due for repayment this year, up 40 percent on 2023.

Alexandre Arrobbio, World Bank country manager for Tunisia, said the loans are part of World Bank assistance coordinated with other partners to strengthen Tunisia’s resilience against future food-related challenges.

The Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies (ITES) published a report earlier this month calling for the country to devise a medium and long-term food policy to boost its food security.

The Food Security in Tunisia to 2035 report highlighted issues including increased dependence on fluctuating external markets, heavy pressure on natural resources, the fragmentation of plots of land and the increasing age of farmers.

ITES said it was crucial to adopt a comprehensive vision for the sector that was “resilient to shocks and climate change and less dependent on the external world”.

“It must intervene to readjust the prices of certain basic products in the event of a crisis, and tighten controls on the storage and distribution chains in the agri-food sector,” the ITES added.

Tunisia increased the price of drinking water by up to 16 percent at the beginning of March as a result of the ongoing drought.

According to the World Food Programme, Tunisia’s dependence on agricultural imports, exacerbated by economic challenges and high inflation, has led to food shortages.

It said the drought has diminished harvests, destabilised dairy production and hit olive crops. As a result, levels of malnutrition have increased, and now affect 30 percent of children under 5 and 32 percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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