Tunisia to Transit Vegetable Oil Imports to Private Refiners


Mar 20, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

Tunisia does not produce Soybeans. Although the Ministry of Agriculture encourages Tunisian producers to diversify into rapeseed and sunflower crops, no formal programs support diversification. As a result, Tunisian Oilseed production is entirely focused on the olive industry. For MY 2023/24, the USDA expects Tunisia’s crushing facility demand to increase slightly compared to MY 2021/22 and MY 2022/23. This is partly due to an anticipated slight rebound in Tunisia’s food service sector (a significant poultry, beef, and dairy consumer). Soybean consumption in MY 2022/23 is lowered on more significant Soybean Meal imports fueled by the elimination of the customs duties on Soybean Meal imports.

Tunisian feed millers report that the industry directed more Soybean to the production of whole fat Soybean (direct feed use) in MY 2021/22, and this will continue to grow in MY 2022/23 and MY 2023/24 as production efficiency and demand of full-fat Soybean has increased. The industry strives to maintain at least 30 processing days of storage or about 42,000 MT. Industry sources also confirm beginning and ending stocks in MY 2021/22 were 13,000 and 38,000 MT, respectively. In MY 2022/23, ending stocks are revised higher, reflecting higher beginning stocks.

In MY 2021/22, Tunisia produced 75,000 MT of Soybean Oil and imported 76,000 MT. Soybean Oil is Tunisia’s most prominent vegetable Oil import, followed by palm, corn, and sunflower Oils. Soybean, sunflower, and corn Oil are imported crude, supported by an advantageous tax structure. However, palm Oil is generally imported refined. Most refined corn Oil and significant volumes of refined Soybean Oil are then re-exported. While Libya is a major buyer of Tunisia’s refined and price-controlled vegetable Oils, exact export volumes are difficult to estimate. As per the AgFlow data, Tunisia imported 20,000 tons of Sunseed Oil from Russia in 2022, followed by Ukraine (7,300 tons) and Argentina (5,000 tons).

Tunisia maintains a policy to continue subsidizing vegetable Oil purchased by the state-run National Oil Board (ONH) to keep relatively low market prices at the retail level. The Compensation Fund (Caisse Generale de Compensation) writes off losses incurred by ONH resulting from selling at prices below purchase costs. Also, there is a policy for transitioning vegetable Oil imports from ONH to private-run refiners via a refining quota system. To maintain affordable prices of vegetable Oils for consumers, the government continues to maintain reduced taxes and VAT on a list of edible Oils (e.g., palm, Soybean, corn, and sunflower) through the application of Decree 2014-002 of January 7, 2014.

Tunisia to Transit Vegetable Oil Imports to Private Refiners

Tunisian Soybean Meal Use

The country allows Soybean Meal imports with zero duty. Previously, imports of Soybean Meal were subject to a 15 percent customs duty, while imports of Soybean and whole-fat Soybean were imported with zero duty. Industry reports that the elimination of Soybean Meal customs depresses Soybean imports. Tunisia’s Soybean crusher reports their satisfaction with U.S. Soybean quality and is willing to pay a premium for U.S. Soybean over products from competing origins.

In MY 2021/22, Post decreased Soybean Meal consumption due to the significant contraction in the Tunisian dairy cow herd that lowered demand and the compound feed price freeze imposed by the Ministry of Trade in April 2022 amid international feed price spikes. Post estimates Soybean Meal consumption to increase slightly in MY 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 compared to MY 2021/22. This increase reflects the assumption of a slight rise in Tunisian animal feed production, assuming average population growth. However, growth is not expected to be significant, considering inflationary pressures. About 70 percent of Soybean Meal is destined for the poultry and egg sectors. Industry reports that eliminating the Soybean Meal customs duties stimulates Soybean Meal imports.

Other sources: USDA

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