TUNISIA – Tunisia’s agricultural sector will face significant challenges from climate change, as outlined in a recent report by the Tunisian Institute of Competitiveness and Quantitative Studies (ITCEQ).

The report, titled “Macroeconomic Impacts and Challenges of the Agricultural Sector’s Adaptation to Climate Change,” predicts a 2.3% annual decline in olive production between 2022 and 2050, and a 2% drop in date production over the same period. These changes could have severe effects on the country’s economy.

The report highlights the challenges posed by climate change in Tunisia, including high temperatures, decreased rainfall, and extreme weather events.

Field crop production, concentrated 95% in the north-west region (Kef, Beja, and Jendouba governorates), is expected to fall by 0.1% over the period. Market garden crops, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and citrus fruits, will also be heavily impacted.

Animal production faces risks due to expected drops in rainfall and rising temperatures. Sheep, goat, and cattle production may decrease between 0.3% and 0.9% from 2022 to 2050.

In contrast, poultry production is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 0.4%. Meanwhile, fisheries production is expected to remain stagnant.

Impact on the national economy

The decline in agricultural production will have significant repercussions on Tunisia’s national economy.

It will lead to reduced employment in the agricultural and agri-food sectors and increased food imports.

These changes could cause greater demand for foreign currency, resulting in a depreciation of the exchange rate.

Tunisia’s agricultural sector already faces challenges, including a heavy dependence on climate (only 4.5% of the total agricultural area is irrigated) and a reliance on family farming. Farmers often have limited education, and many experiences high levels of debt.

Adapting to climate change

To combat these challenges, the ITCEQ recommends focusing on four key areas: agricultural production, biodiversity and ecosystems, land, and water resources.

In terms of agricultural production, improving crop yields—particularly for durum wheat, dates, and olives—is crucial.

This can be achieved by adopting more sustainable production systems and using new, climate-resilient varieties and breeds.

The report emphasizes the importance of improving the management of food products demand to reduce losses and waste. In the water sector, adaptation policies should enhance the efficiency of water use in agriculture by controlling wastage through micro-irrigation.

This includes better mobilization, transfer, and storage of water resources, such as rainwater management and recovery systems.

By focusing on these adaptation strategies, Tunisia can better prepare its agricultural sector to face the ongoing challenges posed by climate change.

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