A hot wave and wildfires have severely harmed Tunisia’s grain crop, prompting the farmers’ organization to predict that production would fall significantly short of official expectations.

The loss of grain output comes as the North African nation suffers with rising food import prices caused by the Ukraine conflict.

Agriculture Minister Mhamoud Elyess Hamza forecasted last month that the 2022 grain crop will be 1.8 million tonnes, a 10% increase over last year’s.

But, referring to the flames that raged throughout most of the nation last month, farmers union head Mohamed Rejaibia claimed it was no longer viable.

“The grain harvest will not be more than 1.4 million tonnes,” Rejaibia, a member of the union’s executive office, said. “Some of it will be lost to fires and some perhaps during collection.”

According to the union and scientists, the crop is also experiencing direct harm from high temperatures, which have already hit 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) this summer and are expected to reach 49 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the temperature may make harvesting difficult for agricultural laborers.

Tunisia had been relying on a bumper harvest to minimize grain imports in the midst of a national financial crisis aggravated by the conflict. Higher import costs for food and energy would cost the government $1.7 billion this year, according to the government, which subsidizes such goods.

This year, the government aspired for self-sufficiency in durum wheat production, its principal crop.

Fearing that flames would destroy their whole 2022 crop, some farmers are harvesting grain earlier and accepting lesser yields.

“Usually we begin the harvest season in July, but this year we started on June 18,” farmer Abderraouf Arfaoui of Krib, a northern town, said. “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 earlier this month that the grain harvest this year will be a target for criminal groups looking to steal high-quality products.

He said that protecting the harvest was an issue of national security.

Source: Reuters

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