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June 23, 2019

Squeezed Tunisian Farmers Eye EU Imports With Concern

Sitting in the restaurant of his farm in the lush Beja agricultural region, Zied Ben Yousef praises Tunisia’s farming potential, which he says goes all the way back to the days of the Roman Empire. His farm specialises in the production of cheese, which he sells in a local shop and delivers to the capital. He also teaches students about cheese production methods and agriculture. His goal is for people to come to the region, located two hours from Tunis, and enjoy his homemade products.

But the competition from Europe and other domestic producers is fierce. It’s impossible, he says, to export to the European Union because of health standards and the Tunisian market is increasingly dominated by big multinationals, leaving small farmers under pressure.

“We are in the last days of agriculture in Tunisia,” he says.

Ben Yousef is not alone: many Tunisian farmers are squeezed these days between a sector with little government investment, slowly being taken over by large producers and landowners, and a marketplace that benefits subsidised imports from elsewhere.

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