The latter consist, in particular, for devising a 21.3-million-dinar programme to help farmers face up to rainfall deficiency in central and southern governorates.
The programme is designed to co-finance the irrigation of about 5.5 million damaged plants, help distribute fodder to feed 950,000 livestock and ensure regular drinking and irrigation water supply during summer.
The action of the National Guarantee Fund (FNG) will be strengthened, the Prime Minister announced, so as to reschedule over a five-year period the debts of cereal farmers due in summer and cover resulting interest expenses.
In addition, Larayedh said that new projects with investments worth 53 million Tunisian dinars (MTD) are scheduled to ensure a regular drinking water supply during the summer season.
Some of these projects will be finalised before summer 2013, while the others will not see the light before summer 2014, he specified.
The Interim Prime Minister reminded that the farming and fishing sector contributes up to 8% to the GDP and accounts for about 10% of products meant for exportation”.
“This sector employs alone over 16% of the active population and 516,000 farmers, that is nearly 2.5 million people,” he stressed.
National consultation on Agricultural Reforms
Ali Larayedh also said a national consultation will be launched in the coming weeks to discuss proposed reforms to improve the agricultural research and higher agricultural education systems.
Regarding preparations for the month of Ramadan, he said that measures have been taken to ensure necessary buffer stocks in consumer products.
These stocks include 50 million litres of milk, 55 million eggs and 4,400 tons of poultry meat (chicken and turkey).
Agriculture Minister Mohamed Ben Salem had emphasised at the opening of the conference held to celebrate Agriculture Day the need to ensure appropriate conditions so that the Tunisian agriculture would be prosperous and adapted to technological development.
Among these conditions he cited the need for producers to organise within active professional structures, knowing that the number of Tunisian farmers rose from 350 thousand in 1960 to 517 thousand now, speed up the pace of investment, organise and strengthen the role of the profession in the management of production activities and fight against land fragmentation.
Focus on “ills” of Tunisian Agriculture
President of the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries (UTAP) Ahmed Hnider Jarallah said in the face of the increasing number of farmers, the average area of farms has shrunk from 15 hectares in 1960 to 10 hectares today.
According to him, 50% of farmers exploit lands with an area of less than 10 hectares, 50% of farmers are aged over 60 and only 1% of them are with high educational attainment levels.
“Farms are not treated as businesses and all policies and plans consider farmers as social players rather than economic ones,” complained the UTAP President.
The Tunisian agriculture is “sick,” he said, speaking of such symptoms as poor revenues generated by the sector and the recession of bank financing for agricultural projects.
Layth Ben Becher, President of the Tunisian Farmers’ Union said, on his part, that “the Tunisian agriculture has failed to ensure desired production rates, particularly in dry farming.”
According to him, even the self-sufficiency recorded in milk industry and white meat remains “vulnerable” since the country is sometimes forced to resort to imports”. We are called today to clean up agricultural production in terms of quality and quantity and better manage our natural resources, particularly in a context marked by dangers of global warming,” he said, recommending to this effect to review farming methods and agricultural systems in general.
Source: Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis)