Tunisia needs clear vision of agricultural sector to negotiate DCFTA (experts) | Tunisia News Gazette

Tunisia needs clear vision of agricultural sector to negotiate DCFTA (experts)

Tunisia must have a clear vision of the development of agriculture, so far absent, so that this sector can make the most of a possible agreement with the European Union in the framework of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), this is what emerged from a panel discussion held on Tuesday in Gammarth.

The panel discussion is organised by the Mediterranean Development Initiative (MDI), in association with the SYNAGRI (Union of Tunisian farmers) and the German Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation.

Former European Commissioner for Agriculture and former Prime Minister of Romania Dacian Ciolos said these negotiations are a moment of truth during which the country sets the sector choices and the pace of negotiations, which requires proper preparation with the implementation of impact studies on society and the territory.

Ciolos said the point is to answer the following questions: which model of agriculture Tunisia must adopt in 15 or 20 years? What are the sectors and structures to protect? What types of financial assistance, should one ask for in 5 or 10 years? What are the target markets for Tunisian products?

President of MDI, Ghazi Ben Ahmed, said for his part, that a constructive and scientific debate on this issue should take place, saying that “DCFTA or not, it is necessary to reform the Tunisian agriculture.

Along the same lines, Synagri President Karim Daoud noted that the sector needs to modernise.

He recalled that “a round of negotiations on the DCFTA has already gone, while we have not yet got down to work,” hence the need to work together (government and professional structures) to well prepare these negotiations.

He said that this issue requires courage and daring on the part of politicians, stressing the importance of involving professionals in the negotiation process, by giving them proper information and raising awareness among small farmers on this subject.

Lastly, he expressed the wish to see Tunisian agriculture benefit from the same advantages and the same technical and financial support granted by the EU to Eastern European countries.

In his speech, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture Abdelhamid Gasmi said that the negotiations on the DCFTA, whose 2nd round is scheduled for April 24-26 in Tunis, will look at the parameters of negotiations and consider asymmetry and progressivity, tariff and non-tariff barriers, and sanitary and phytosanitary aspects.

He added that “Tunisia has asked for supportive measures” estimating that the transitional phase must last more than 10 years.

In the previous agreements with the EU, the agricultural sector has also been confronted with problems related to the difficulty of achieving certain quotas, with the exception of olive oil and sardines.

The reasons being the variability of agricultural production, a binding timetable, and high entry prices to the European market, compared to other competitors, in sectors such as cut flowers and fresh oranges whose quantity exported never exceeded 43% of the quota, he said.

With regard to the new round of negotiations on the DCFTA, studies on the citrus and milk sectors are under way.

For the official, the agricultural sector must have its own vision, which must be adapted to other policies (industrial and other) of the country and to its commitments with international organisations such as the WTO.

He added that “agricultural activity remains unattractive to Tunisians, because of declining profitability, since the revenues are down particularly, in small farms”.

In this respect, a programme to improve the viability of agriculture has been established and will deal with sector and financial restructuring, the revival of investment, a programme of modernisation of 20 thousand farms and the revision of the sector’s governance.

Source: TAP News Agency

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