Tunisia seeks buyers after record orange harvest
Tunis - Tunisia is desperately looking for orange lovers after a bumper harvest of 550,000 tonnes of the fruit, half of which could be destroyed if there are no buyers, experts said.
Mohamed Ali Jandoubi, who heads the Groupement Interprofessionel des Fruits (GIF), an association of citrus growers, said farmers have harvested 550,000 tonnes of oranges this year.
“Over the past five years we reached a ceiling of 400,000 tonnes. This year we’ve harvested 550,000 tonnes. It’s huge,” said Jandoubi, who warned the recent harvest will not spell good news if there are no buyers.
“Half of it could be destroyed” if there are no buyers, the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fishery recently warned, with about 10% of the harvest expected to be exported.
Jandoubi said the bumper harvest was due primarily to prevailing dry weather conditions and “physiological conditions”, which meant the orange blossoms and the fruit held on to the trees.
About 12,000 families work in the orange industry, Jandoubi said.
France favours the so-called Maltese orange specific to Tunisia and growers hope to tap into the French market to increase sales. They are looking to promote Tunisia’s oranges during the Paris agriculture salon, which takes place February 25th-March 5th.
Russia could be another market for Tunisian oranges, although they could face tough competition with oranges produced in Egypt and Turkey.
Orange farmers urged authorities to help them develop their industry and find alternative uses for oranges, such as in juices and cosmetics.
Tunisia’s economy, of which agriculture is a key sector, has been affected by social unrest since the 2011 “Arab spring” and by a string of jihadist-claimed attacks, including on its vital tourism industry.
Last year, strong exports including dates and olive oil helped Tunisia’s economy “avoid the worst”, the Finance Ministry has said.
In 2015-16, the North African country exported a record 110,000 tonnes of dates, a 10% increase on the previous year and a rare boost for the economy. Tunisia last year was the world’s number one exporter of olive oil.