A fire burns on a wheat field in Jendouba, Tunisia June 6, 2022. Picture taken June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
Heat wave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest
Loss of grain production comes as the North African country struggles with food importation costs driven higher by the war in Ukraine.
Agriculture Minister Mhamoud Elyess Hamza this month forecast the 2022 grain harvest would reach 1.8 million tonnes, up 10% on last year’s.
But farmers union official Mohamed Rejaibia, pointing to fires that began raging over much of the country last month, said that was no longer possible.
“The grain harvest will not be more than 1.4 million tonnes,” said Rejaibia, a member of the union’s executive office. “Some of it will be lost to fires and some perhaps during collection.”
The union and experts say the crop also is suffering direct damage from high temperatures, which have already reached 47 Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) this summer and are forecast to go as high as 49 Celsius. Moreover, the heatwave could hinder agricultural workers in collecting the harvest.
Tunisia has been counting on a big crop to reduce grain imports amid a national financial crisis that is exacerbated by the war. Higher prices of imported food and energy will cost the budget $1.7 billion this year, says the government, which subsidises such supplies.
The country has aimed at self-sufficiency this year in production of durum wheat, the main grain that it produces.
Some farmers are harvesting grain early, accepting smaller crops for fear of losing all their 2022 production to fires.
“Usually we begin the harvest season in July, but this year we started on June 18,” said farmer Abderraouf Arfaoui in Krib, a northern town. “We are afraid of fires. We must watch our land day and night.”
“We must harvest without waiting, even if that reduces the quantity and quality of the wheat, and when we finish the harvest we must watch our haystacks, too.”
President Kais Saied said this month that the grain crop this year would be a target for criminal gangs, which particularly planned to steal products of good quality.
Protecting the crop was a matter of national security, he said.
Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Bradley Perrett / REUTERS
apofeed with “What Lies Beneath the Slow Economic Growth in the MENA?” attempts to elaborate on the current situation that is prevailing in certain MENA countries.
What Lies Beneath the Slow Economic Growth in the Middle East and North Africa?
A dynamic private sector is key for the economies of the region to grow out of their currently high debt levels; Unlocking sustainable growth in the region’s private sector requires reforms that facilitate innovation, the adoption of digital technologies and investments in human capital; Reforms to support these objectives must take account of sustainability and the global agenda to limit climate change
The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank have published a joint report, Unlocking Sustainable Private Sector Growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (https://bit.ly/3H73CdA). The report analyses constraints on productivity growth and limited accumulation of factors or production in the MENA private sector.
The report is based on the MENA Enterprise Survey conducted between late 2018 and 2020 on over 5 800 formal businesses across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, the West Bank and Gaza. Historically, economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa has been weak since the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the Arab Spring of the early 2010s. Since then, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has grown by only 0.3% a year in the MENA region. That compares unfavourably with rates of 1.7% on average in middle-income countries and 2.4% in the developing economies of Europe and Central Asia.
Achieving higher and sustainable growth is particularly important in view of other economic challenges facing the region. Public debt has increased considerably over the last decade, accompanied by declining investment. More recently, the coronavirus pandemic has battered the region, further straining public finances. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine affects the MENA economies through higher hydrocarbon prices, risks to food security and declining tourism.
Against this background, it is important that policymakers exploit the potential of the private sector to propel the region towards greater prosperity.
“The spillovers from the war in Ukraine add to structural vulnerabilities in the region. The prospects for global financial tightening, persistently high energy and food prices and concerns for food security come on top of concerns related to weak economic growth and rising debt levels,” said EIB Chief Economist Debora Revoltella (https://bit.ly/2UYJi4s). “When responding to the new shock, MENA countries need to tackle the main structural bottlenecks affecting the region. Reforms that lower regulatory barriers, tackle informal business practices, promote competition, and facilitate innovation and digitalisation are crucial for achieving sustainable economic growth and improving resilience to future shocks.”
The business environment in the MENA region as reported in the survey has been held back by various factors. Political connection and informality are undermining fair competition, bringing economic benefits to a limited number of companies. Management practices lag behind benchmark countries, with a decline in average scores in all MENA countries since 2013.
Customs and trade regulations appear to be more severe barriers for firms in the MENA region than in other countries. Firms need more time to clear customs to import or export than in other countries. The MENA economies depend on high levels of imports compared to low export activities.
Although firms trading in the international market are more willing to develop and innovate processes, only 20% invest in innovation, which can affect the long-term economic prospects for the region.
The region needs to make better use of its human capital. Predominantly, only a few foreign-owned companies invest in training their human capital, and they tend to be digitally connected exporting firms. Additionally, a significant share of companies are not engaging in financial activities with other economic players, opting to self-finance voluntarily.
Incentives for companies to decarbonise are weak, and MENA firms are less likely than their counterparts in Europe and Central Asia to adopt measures that reduce their environmental footprint.
Unlocking sustainable growth in the region’s private sector, the report calls for MENA economies to lower regulatory barriers for businesses, promote competition and reduce disincentives emerging from political influence and informal business practices.
The region is also in need of reforms to facilitate innovation, the adoption of digital technologies and investments in human capital, while being in line with the global agenda to limit climate change, enhance sustainability and protect the natural environment.
Improving management practices can be instrumental to that. “Good management practices can account for as much as 30% of differences in efficiency across countries,” said Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank. “Management practices are lacklustre in firms in the region, particularly in those with some state ownership. Improving these practices can have substantial benefits, is not costly, but is not easy. It will require — among others — a change in mindsets.”
Companies should also be given incentives to exploit the benefits of participating in cross-border trade and global value chains more broadly, accompanied by better management practices.
At the same time, the state has a duty to ensure that this transition process is just, through measures that help workers to take advantage of opportunities to obtain new, higher-quality jobs linked to the green economy, while also protecting those at risk of losing their jobs. Such measures include labour market policies, skills training, social safety nets and action to support regional economic development.
EBRD Chief Economist Beata Javorcik said: “Climate change creates an opportunity the MENA region to build up its green credentials and use them as a source of competitive advantage. This will create the much-needed high-quality jobs linked to the green economy.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of European Investment Bank (EIB).
Experts have been pointing out for years that the North African region is a “hotspot”, and that the risks associated with temperatures already above the global average, would be higher (1.5 degrees by 2035, with the possibility, without a radical policy change, of reaching 2.2 degrees in 2050).
Rainfall is expected to decrease and temperature to rise, which will have a direct impact on water resource capacities. Climate models show that these trends will strengthen over the future years.
As the agricultural sector is the main consumer of this resource, agricultural production – and therefore the supply to consumers – will be directly affected.
Agricultural lands are largely located in the arid and semi-arid area, representing 85% of the total land area (excluding the Sahara), and will now be increasingly subject to frequent droughts and climatic accidents.
This diagnosis, widely shared by the National Climate Plan (PNC) adopted by the authorities in 2018, has not been followed up, and the climate change adaptation measures adopted by the PNC are far from being implemented.
A major challenge, therefore, arises in a country where the orientation given to policies is aimed at a further intensification of the modes of exploitation of natural resources: how in these conditions to increase agricultural production while preserving natural resources strongly threatened in the future by ongoing climate change?
Secondly, there is the economic shock caused by the rise in world prices for basic agricultural products, which are very heavily consumed by the population (cereals, milk, edible oils, and sugar).
The market crisis and the rises in commodity prices in the spring of 2020 were accentuated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that began on 24 February 2022.
Soft wheat prices, which hovered around $200 per tonne in the years 2011-2012, reached amounts that are around $290 per tonne in the last quarter of 2021.
The health crisis was a trigger for this market crisis and this with, on the one hand, the consequence and the weight exerted by imports from China – which became the world’s leading importer of agricultural and agri-food products during 2020/2021 season – and on the other hand, the rise in transport prices combined with temporary export restrictions implemented in several exporting countries (Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Argentina, India…).
Since the beginning of the war, soft wheat has increased by 50% to $450 per tonne. World prices for vegetable oils increased by 23%, sugar by 7%, and meat by 5%.
Algeria will thus buy at the end of February 2022, 600,000 tons of milling wheat, of French origin at $ 485 per ton (cost and fees) to load March-April 2022.
Egypt, the world’s largest importer of soft wheat, will acquire 240,000 tons of French soft wheat for loading at the end of May, at $492.25 per tonne.
The featured image is of Workers harvesting wheat in a field on the outskirts of Berouaguia, southwest of Algiers. (Reuters)
Climate change affects all countries, especially those with high agricultural production and equally those with lower production. The ingenuity of the producers of the first countries could not oppose any remedy to this phenomenon. Without wanting to be disillusioned because of this, everyone knows that only a global movement of all the world’s populations could turn this upside down or the other way around.
So, the question would be how to proceed to ensure that the people of the world act the same and at the same time, for a fairly long period. For many specialists, this period would be forever.
The United Nations has already been working on this with its sustainable development agenda with a program based on 17 clearly defined goals.
These goals would be to transform our world from sustainable development through the action of all countries – poor, rich, and middle-income – to protect the planet while promoting prosperity.
They recognize that ending poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that develop economic growth and address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection, and employment opportunities while addressing climate change and environmental protection.
The problem is that the planet does not expect its inhabitants to start from a common agreement to push in the same direction.
More virulent phenomena such as desertification, and scarcity of groundwater that mainly due to reductions in precipitation in all climatic areas of the globe. Paradoxically, there is the fact that seawater levels tend to rise above their normal level as known in recent centuries.
Apart from what is said above, there is a much greater impact. This is kept away from direct attention.
It is the one that affects those important agricultural producing countries that with this global warming would tend to lose their level of production at the expense of those other countries whose lands froze for centuries and who would see them suddenly turn into arable land. Conversely, countries whose subsistence production enabled these to go through millennia might be likely to face up to survival of the fittest span of time.
Are we being on the verge of yet another phenomenon consequent from climate change? It would be that of a new swing in the hierarchy of food producers of the world? The question that has not been asked so far still deserves attention. That of each and every one.
The desire to minimize dependency on fossil fuels, improve energy security, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions has prompted governments in the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) area to commit to meeting aggressive renewable energy objectives. By 2030, MENA countries want to produce between 15% to 50% of their power from renewable sources. A favorable climate for the uptake of renewables, notably solar & wind power, is being created by falling technology costs and an increasing focus on green regulations. However, the MENA region has been reluctant to adopt renewable energy, with a total developed renewable energy capacity of only 10.6 gigawatts (GW) relative to a worldwide total of 2,799 GW by 2020.
ESS (Energy storage systems) will be critical in integrating variable renewable energy (VRE) technologies into power grids. Through capacity firming as well as other ancillary services like frequency and voltage management, ESS will improve the flexibility and stability of the power systems.
ESS offers a variety of services that can be combined to maximize value based on the demands and requirements of the power system and grid. Depending on market needs, these services are rewarded differently. Moreover, to the storage capacity payment, service stacking offers revenue stacking, making ESS’s business case more appealing. Traditionally, power system design has concentrated on increasing power-producing capacity to satisfy rising electrical demand. This has sparked a competition throughout the MENA region to increase power generation, which is primarily based on thermal energy and is growing at a rate of 7% per year. Population growth, subsidies, and the ever-increasing need for cooling and water are all driving up demand. The trend in power system design is toward lower peak loads, which is crucial for MENA nations to minimize the pace and rate of power output capacity addition.
Nations in the region are undertaking steps to increase their energy storage capability, with 30 projects expected to be completed by 2025. Pumped hydro storage (PHS) accounts for 55 percent of the region’s ESS installed capacity, relative to 90 percent globally, while batteries, especially lithium-ion and sodium-sulfur batteries, are predicted to rise from 7% to 45 percent of MENA’s ESS by 2025.
The reasons for ESS deployment differ per area. Ambitious renewable energy objectives encourage Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and the majority of Gulf republics. This applies mostly to utility-scale FTM (front-of-meter) applications — grid-scale energy storage linked to generation sources or even transmission and distribution (T&D) networks — mainly through renewable energy-plus-storage auctions or even the co-location of solar and wind power plus storage. Currently, FTM applications account for 89 percent of the region’s ESS installed capacity. Significant power supply shortages, on the other hand, provide another push for ESS in countries that experience frequent power outages, such as Iraq and Lebanon. This is largely in terms of behind-the-meter (BTM) solutions, which mitigate the socioeconomic losses linked with blackouts by storing electricity on-premises behind the consumer’s meter.
Despite these factors, ESS deployment in the Middle East and North Africa is currently around 1.46 GW, relative to a worldwide capacity of around 10 GW, or simply below 15% of overall capacity – roughly equivalent to battery storage in the United Kingdom. To expedite ESS and VRE implementation in the region, governments, power utilities, and financial institutions will require to address a number of legislative, financial, and market impediments.
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