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Tunisian citrus production reaches 440,000 tons

The 2014/2015 citrus season in Tunisia has reached over 440,000 tons of production compared to the 355,000 tons over the 2013/2014 season.

According to Mohamed Radhouani, Director General of the Interprofessional Fruit Group (GIF), half of this production is of average size but acceptable on local and international markets, whilst the rest is of small and large sizes.

Maltese production increased by 30% reaching, 157,000 tons compared to 121,000 tons in 2013. Clementines saw a 70% increase with production reaching a total of 67,000 tons compared to 40,000 in 2013. Thomson production reached 94,000 tons. Production of other varieties such as sweet orange, lemon, and mandarines, decreased by an estimated 21%, 17% and 14% respectively.

The GIF is helping keep production healthy by supplying small farms with free pesticides. As for the larger orange orchards, the group are selling them pesticides at purchase price with no margins. The GIF organise an annual campaign to fight against Medfly. Mr Radhouani says that to to fight the insect, they need to intervene with planes over the orchards. 

A new technique using traps to fight Medfly has been set up. The traps are funded by the government costing up to 500,000 dinars, of which 50% is paid for by the farmers. This technique does not use pesticides and will progressively be used on all citrus fruit orchards over the following seasons.

Mr Radhouani has said that the local market will be supplied with a sufficient quantity of citrus fruit of all varieties, the prices should decrease compared to last year due to the abundant offer. 

Export potential is also estimated better than last year when production was high all over the Mediterranean meaning there was steep competition on the international market. Export seems promising this season for Tunisian citrus producers as new opportunities outside of the traditional European market open, for example the 100 tons of clementines Tunisia has exported to Russia.

Efforts are also being made to increase Tunisia’s market share in the Gulf, Libya and Algeria where high quantities of Tunisian citrus fruit is imported for processing (orange juice).

France remains the largest market for Tunisian citrus fruit, taking in 71% of export. Over the last export season (January-April 2014), quantity exported to the French market reached 14,422 tons compared to 18,827 tons in 2013, i.e. a 23.4% decrease in volume. Mr Radhouani explains that this decrease is due to the export to France being sent a week late due to delayed maturing of production and a decrease in French demand due to the mild weather.

Farmed acreage destined for export will be increased and new varieties (e.g. marital and coffin) will be introduced to increase the varieties (45). The production period will be prolonged, going from 6 months to 8, i.e. October to May. Over the 2014-2015 season, citrus orchards spread over an area of between 24-25,000 ha made up of 7 million trees and employing almost 12,500 farmers.

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