Agriculture exports boost Tunisia’s economy

Olive oil exports reached 300,000 tonnes by the end of last month, bringing in an estimated $975 million. (File photo: AFP)

Tunisia’s tourism-dependent economy, badly affected by two deadly jihadist attacks on foreign tourists this year, has been helped along by olive oil and date exports, the finance minister said Friday.

The North African country’s economy has “avoided the worst” this year thanks to a drop in global oil prices and a sharp increase in “olive oil and date exports,” Slim Chaker said.

Olive oil exports reached 300,000 tonnes by the end of last month, bringing in an estimated 1.9 billion dinars (850 million euros, $975 million) compared to less than 500 million dinars for the whole of last year, according to the agriculture ministry.

Some 100,000 tonnes of dates were exported by the end of September, generating revenue of 462 million dinars compared to 380 million dinars for the whole of 2014, the ministry’s Aniss Ben Rayana said.

Tunisia’s economy has remained stagnant since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The finance ministry has forecast just 0.5 percent growth this year, half the figure for last year.

Tunisia based its draft budget on projected growth of 2.5 percent next year, just half of growth mentioned in a recent development plan for 2016-20.

The country’s key tourism sector -- which contributes 10 percent of its GDP -- has been badly shaken by an attack on foreign tourists at the National Bardo Museum in the capital in March and a beachside massacre near the coastal city of Sousse in June.

The attacks, claimed by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, claimed 22 dead and 38 dead respectively.

The number of visitors from Europe has been halved since January, and several international chains are to close their hotels over the winter season.

Tunisia, which hopes to reduce its public deficit by 3.9 percent in 2016, announced last month that it would ask the International Monetary Fund for a new aid package at least equal to a $1.7-billion credit line granted in 2013.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48