Tunisia gets $147m European loan for grain imports

President Kais Saied ratifies loan announced by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development last month

A Tunisian woman buys vegetables at a market in Tunis, Tunisia, 13 April 2021. EPA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Tunisian President Kais Saied has ratified a government decision to receive a $147 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

As announced by the EBRD on August 24, Decree 64 — issued on Wednesday — said that the bank will guarantee the ability of Tunisia’s Office of Cereals “to fund imports of soft wheat, durum wheat and barley, representing up to 15 per cent of Tunisia’s annual consumption needs”.

The presidential decree stated that the loan will contribute to the state’s Food Security Resilience Project, a strategy put in place in response to rising food prices following the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Tunisia has been hit by a food crisis in recent weeks, with shortages of several basic goods such as sugar, coffee, milk and wheat-based products, as well as a sudden rise in overall prices.

Empty shelves, long supermarket queues, fistfights over certain goods and bakeries shutting down due to a lack of ingredients have caused a public outcry over the government's handling of the crisis.

Mr Saied has blamed hoarders and unnamed parties for causing shortages and rising prices.

However, with the EBRD loan, the Tunisian government hopes it will be able to import much needed cereals to cover the shortages in the market.

After a visit by its board of directors, the EBRD said on Wednesday that it expects Tunisia to reach a 2.9 per cent economic growth rate in 2023, with recent progress made in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout loan.

The government’s approach to reform continues to be the target of strong domestic opposition, namely from the country's biggest labour union, the Tunisian General Labour Union, due to what it says is a deferential attitude to international financial institutions.

Over the years, the IMF and the World Bank have asked the Tunisian government to enact a wide range of reforms, including civil sector wages and the current subsidy system.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 6:00 PM
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL