Country Focus Data: Tunisia
May 01, 1996
by Mindy Dake
Located on the coast of North Africa, Tunisia's capital is Tunis.
Demography: Population 8.9 million (July 1995); Arabic (official/commerce), French (commerce) languages; Muslim religion (98%).
Geography: Total land area 163,610 square km; 1,148 km coastline; temperate in north; desert in south.
Government: Republic. Chief of state is President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, head of government is Prime Minister Hamed Karoui.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Office of Cereals.
Economy: Tunisia's economy is fairly diversified, and energy, mining, tourism and agriculture are important sectors. Government control over the economy slowly has been diminishing over the past eight to 10 years through an economic liberalization program. The program generally has been successful, but adverse social effects, such as cuts in food subsidies and unemployment, have forced the government to proceed slowly.
Real growth averaged 5% in 1991-1994. Agriculture accounts for 16% of G.D.P. and employs about 30% of the labor force.
G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$4,250 (1994 estimate); 1994 real growth rate 4.4%.
Currency: The Tunisian dinar. April 1996 exchange rate: 0.97 dinars per U.S. dollar.
Foreign trade: 1993 exports, U.S.$4.6 billion, f.o.b., 75% with E.U. countries, 10% with Middle East, primarily energy products, olive oil. 1993 imports, U.S.$6.5 billion, c.i.f., 70% with E.U., 5% with U.S., consisting of industrial goods, grain.
Major crops: olive oil, citrus fruits, dates and cereals.
Wheat: Tunisia's wheat production, along with most of its agriculture, is highly dependent on rainfall and is subject to periodic and severe droughts. Because consumption is relatively stable, production dictates import levels.
Wheat production from 1990 to 1994 averaged about 1.3 million tonnes, ranging from 500,000 in 1994 to 1.8 million in 1991. Imports in the same period averaged 851,000 tonnes, ranging from a low of 524,000 in 1991 to a high of 1.4 million in 1994. Consumption averaged 2.06 million tonnes. Durum wheat is important in Tunisia, and in average or high rainfall years, the country generally is self-sufficient.
Feed grains: Barley is the primary feed grain, and production averages about 415,000 tonnes, subject to wide fluctuations. Imports average about 200,000 tonnes, with use averaging about 600,000 tonnes. Some 260,000 tonnes of maize also are imported and consumed each year.
Transportation: Railroads, 2,260 km total; 1,758 km of 1.000-meter gauge, 492 of 1.435-meter gauge; 29,183 km of highways, with 17,510 km paved; major grain handling port is La Goulette.