Promotion of European rapeseed in Tunisia: Risky choice for sector’s independence
11/09/2019 13:54, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) - The technical institute of rapeseed industry professionals in France "TERRES INOVIA" and the European Union announced on September 10, the launch of a program that promotes cultivation of about 50,000 hectares of rapeseed in Tunisia through the import of European seeds.

This program dubbed "Maghreb Oilseeds" as it also targets Morocco (sunflower crop), provides, according to its initiators, for improved performance of the rapeseed sector in Tunisia thanks to European seeds, the increase in the rapeseed production and hence the reduction of oilseed imports.

In Tunisia, this program will be implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries and through the involvement of key local stakeholders, according to the same source, including Carthage Grains, the National Institute of Field Crops (INGC), the Association for Sustainable Agriculture (APAD) and the “Comptoir Multiservices Agricoles.”

These partners will provide support (training and technical assistance) to farmers in 7 regions: Bizerte, Beja, Siliana, Kef, Jendouba, Zaghouan and Nabeul, and will provide them with inputs.

According to a joint press release by "TERRES INOVIA" and the European Union, the European catalogue of rapeseed varieties offers many advantages to Tunisian farmers. They assure that the seeds to be imported into Tunisia are healthy and without genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Contacted by TAP, official in charge of programs for the supervision of farmers and producers at the INGC Rachid Zouani said that European seeds will be tested according to their economic performance during two seasons of great culture.

"The varieties of seeds retained will be registered in the official catalogue of plant varieties in Tunisia and will be GMO-free," reassures the official, adding that the Tunisian seed companies will take care of their import and a program of supervision and training of 60 technicians is planned in this regard (2019-2022).

Rapeseed crops will, however, be reserved for affluent farmers (medium and large), those with agricultural machinery (combine harvesters, seeding equipment and seeders), given the "delicacy" of cultivating this variety of plants.

Nabil Hamada, agronomist and expert explained to TAP that it is necessary to pay attention to the contamination by GMOs, "It all depends on the choice of seeds to be imported into Tunisia (hybrids, GMOs, etc.).”

 Tunisia still does not have a legal framework and laws that govern the import of GMOs.

Tunisia’s needs of edible oils and vegetable proteins stand at 313,000 tonnes and 510,000 tonnes, respectively, (USDA, 2018/2019). Tunisia is 95% dependent on imports in this field.

For the record, Tunisia launched in mid-February 2017, as part of a Tunisian-French partnership, the development program of a 100% Tunisian rapeseed sector.

The implementation of this crop, started in 2014, initially focused on the establishment of an upstream chain that brings together more than 100 farmers cultivating more than 3,000 hectares (experimental platforms).

Rapeseed is one of the globally sown transgenic plants, namely, soybean, corn, cotton and also beet, alfalfa, potato and papaya.

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