WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Increasing prices for wheat flour, sugar and vegetable oil are having a significant effect on local Tunisian staples, like couscous, bread and pasta. Rising food costs and unemployment were a major factor leading to the social unrest and riots in Tunisia, said Cary Sifferath, U.S. Grains Council regional director based in Tunisia, on Jan. 20.

“The effects on feed grains demand across North Africa is not known yet. However, Tunisia’s demand will be set back in 2011, after seeing a record of corn imports and the first major distiller’s dried grains import in 2010,” Sifferath said. “At the same time, these riots will have a major impact on Tunisia’s tourism industry, which will not be good for the economy.”

Tourism represents about 8% to 10% of Tunisia’s gross domestic product and is a major source of hard currency.

As a result, poultry production in Tunisia has also slowed due to lower consumer demand and increased feed prices.

“These cutbacks in poultry production will cause lower feed grain demand. While it is unclear how long this will last, there is a widespread belief in the region that the change of government will be positive for Tunisia’s future,” Sifferath said.

The council will keep a close eye on feed grains demand in Tunisia. While regional Council programs will continue, for the next month, Council programs in Tunisia are on hold.