Tunisia wants agribusiness partnerships with Brazil
ANBA | 24 February 2015
Chafii: agriculture, food security are priority matters
Tunisia wants agribusiness partnerships with Brazil
The CEO of the Arab country’s Agency for Agricultural Investment Promotion, Abderrahmane Chafii, highlights fiscal incentives to projects, interest in technical cooperation and opportunities in trade.
by Alexandre Rocha*
São Paulo – Tunisia is interested in partnering up with Brazil for agribusiness, according to the CEO of the Arab country’s Agency for Agricultural Investment Promotion (Apia), Abderrahmane Chafii. He is currently in São Paulo to speak at seminar Brazil and North Africa – opportunities in agribusiness and food security, on Tuesday (24th), at the offices of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (Fiesp).
“Agriculture and food security are crucial issues for a country that is African, but also Arab,” Chafii told ANBA while paying a visit to the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce headquarters this Monday (23rd). Like other North African and Middle Eastern countries, part of Tunisia’s territory is a desert, therefore farmable areas are limited.
The executive met with the Arab Chamber president, Marcelo Sallum, Foreign Trade vice president, Rubens Hannun, and CEO, Michel Alaby, and signed a cooperation agreement. He believes the organization can help enable partnerships between private sector players from Brazil and Tunisia.
According to the executive, Tunisia offers investment incentives such as fiscal benefits to both local and foreign investors. “We encourage investment across the board [in agribusiness],” he stressed.
Special emphasis is nonetheless placed upon attracting capital into cereal production. According to Chafii, Tunisia grows approximately 70% of what it needs, and must import the remainder. Other segments deemed strategic are dairy and meats.
He also said incentives are granted to water-saving projects, agroindustries, export-oriented ventures, and projects involving protected designation of origin products, and organics.
Foreigners can retain stakes of up to 66% in an agricultural business in Tunisia. They are required to have a local partner. Chafii said foreign entrepreneurs account for 5% to 10% of total agribusiness investments in the country.
He named examples of foreign enterprises that grow fruit and produce in Tunisia to export to Europe and elsewhere – such as the European-based San Lucar, which sells Tunisian-grown tomatoes – and multinational corporations that focus on supplying the local market, such as Danone.
Tunisians are also interested in engaging in technical cooperation with Brazil, to take advantage of the Brazilian expertise in agriculture. “We have a lot to learn when it comes to agricultural research and teaching, and developing areas such as grains and meats,” the Apia CEO acknowledged.
Since the Arab countries as a whole need to import foodstuffs, he suggested that three-way partnerships be established, with Arab investment and Brazilian know-how on Tunisian land.
The Arab country also wants to diversify export market and promote products such as olive oil and dates in Brazil. Regarding olive oil, for instance, he said that even with the increase of demand in Europe, Tunisia has the means to supply to other destinations. “We want to diversify markets and add more value to the product, selling it already bottled”, he said, adding that Tunisia is the third largest olive oil exporter in the world.
As an example of platforms for the generation of business among businesses of the two countries, Chafii named the Supermarket Association of the State of São Paulo (Apas)’s fair, which will be held in May and will be attended by Tunisian’s businesses; the International Exhibition on Agricultural Investment and Technology (Siat), biennial fair whose last edition was held in Tunis in October 2014; and the International Show of Agriculture, Agricultural Machinery and Fishing (Siamap), with the next edition scheduled to October 2015 in Tunis.
The executive stressed that Siamap offers business opportunities also in the area agricultural machinery, and that this fact might be of interest for Brazilian companies.
Chafii pointed out that the Tunisian agricultural sector suffered less than tourism and the industry with the political and social turbulence coming from the Arab Spring. “As with all the sectors, it suffered a little, but we didn’t notice a reduction when it came to investments, the curve kept going up”, he said.
The agricultural activity, according to him, accounts to roughly 10% of the Tunisian economy, for 10% of the country’s exports and for 16% of the jobs.
In the bilateral commerce, agricultural products such as sugar, soy, maize, coffee, beef, tobacco and poultry are among the main items exported from Brazil to Tunisia. On the other hand, the main products sold by the Tunisians to the Brazilian market are fertilizers. Dates are listed in fifth place. Olive oil is listed at the 44th place and in small quantities. The data comes from the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade (MDIC).
*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum and Sérgio Kakitani
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