finance & economy

COVID-19 should be an opportunity to rethink Tunisian agricultural system

October 18, 2020

( (TAP) - 'The current crisis of COVID-19 must be an opportunity to rethink the Tunisian agricultural and food-processing system, to get it out of its current difficulties, its structural weaknesses and to prepare it for the future,' Olivier Durand, Senior Agricultural Economist at the World Bank (WB) said at a webinar on the theme 'Agriculture and Food Security Amid COVID-19 crisis' held Friday in Tunis.

Durand stressed the need to highlight the importance of this agricultural system, which is today a driving force for development, able to support the country's economy, ensure regional inclusion, strengthen the role of women and reduce youth unemployment...

In this connection, he called for a vision to be developed to modernise the Tunisian agricultural sector while rethinking the agricultural policy. This vision must be based, necessarily, on 4 axes.

These include resilience (opting for agro-ecological and agro-forestry practices, better use of water resources...), inclusion (supporting the economic inclusion of family farms, improving the working conditions of temporary labour...), and the development of a sustainable agricultural sector. ), sustainability (increasing the productivity and competitiveness of the sectors while having a positive impact on the environment, exploring employment opportunities for young people...) and efficiency (reconsider incentive policy, remove public and private monopolies, review import and export restrictions...).

Besides, he recommended strengthening the organisation of producers and commodity chains, introducing incentives for professional organisation and opting for the promotion of inter-professional cooperation.

He also called for the promotion of agricultural insurance, exploring new markets and adopting new forms of digital marketing.

For his part, Mohamed Amrani, representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) called for the imperative to develop a future vision to improve the efficiency of the agricultural sector, based on investment, innovation and incentives.

He also proposed controlling supply fluctuations, accelerating the digital transition, developing intelligence in agriculture and investing more in research and development.

Amrani pointed out that the FAO expects the number of hungry people to rise from 690 million at the end of 2019 to 820 million at the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For his part, Hamed Daly, Director General of the National Observatory of Agriculture (ONAGRI) stressed that the repercussions of the health crisis on the Tunisian agricultural sector include the loss of jobs in many sectors, the drop in demand, mainly from hotels and restaurants, the disruption of supply and the decline in production of some activities, particularly fishing.

Thus, ten projects representing an overall investment of 110 million dinars (MD) have been designed, of which six have already started, to support the Tunisian agricultural sector in order to overcome these difficulties.

These projects aim at strengthening food security, supporting the most affected sectors, notably artisanal fishermen and small producers and stepping up monitoring, digitalisation of food systems, creation of additional storage capacities (grains...).

The webinar was organised by the FAO on the observance of the World Food Day (October 16, 2020).

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