Stung by the cost of energy, will the Europeans transfer their agricultural activity to North Africa? |

PARIS, France/ TUNIS, Tunisia-

Across northern and western Europe, vegetable growers are considering shutting down operations due to the financial hit of Europe’s energy crisis, further threatening food supplies.

Some are considering moving their business to North Africa or importing food products from the southern Mediterranean as the solution. But Maghreb experts are skeptical that Europeans are likely to find what they need in North Africa for a number of economic and ecological reasons.

European situation

In Europe, soaring electricity and gas prices will impact crops grown all winter in heated greenhouses, such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, as well as those that need to be placed indoors. cold, such as apples, onions and endives.

Endives are particularly energy intensive. Once the bulbs are harvested in the fall, they are stored at below freezing temperatures, then replanted later in temperature-controlled containers to allow year-round production.

Emmanuel Lefebvre is a farmer who produces thousands of tons of chicory each year on his farm in northern France, but this year he may give up on his crop due to the crippling energy costs needed to freeze the harvested bulbs.

“We are really wondering if we are going to harvest what is in the fields this winter,” Lefebvre told Reuters at the site where his endives are packaged.

European farmers warn of shortages. The expected production impact and rising prices mean that supermarkets could source more products from warmer countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Turkey is another possibility.

This assumes that North African countries have excess production to export, which is not exactly the case in places like Tunisia where food shortages are quite visible and market supply is disrupted.

However, it is still possible that the Maghreb countries will be attracted by hard currency earnings from food exports. However, this could further crowd out domestic consumers and risk sparking social unrest.

Another complicating factor is that agricultural exports are not yet part of trade agreements between the European Union and North Africa.

The Maghreb countries, in particular Tunisia, could demand a revision of the current agreements, which do not include agricultural products.

“Tunisians have spent years trying to reach an agreement on agriculture and services without results because of EU protectionism,” a senior Tunisian economist told The Arab Weekly. “A proper framework must first be defined.”

Soaring gas prices are the biggest cost facing vegetable growers growing in greenhouses, farmers said. Meanwhile, two French farmers renewing their electricity contracts for 2023 said they were being offered prices more than ten times higher than in 2021.

“In the next few weeks, I will plan the season but I don’t know what to do,” said Benjamin Simonot-De Vos, who grows cucumbers, tomatoes and strawberries south of Paris.

“If it stays like this, there’s no point in starting another year. It’s not sustainable.”

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