Heat wave and fires damaging Tunisia's grain harvest

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

 

 

TUNIS, June 27 () – A heat wave and fires are badly damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest, leading the farmers union to forecast that output will fall well short of government hopes.

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.

“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.

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.”

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
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