Milk emergency in Tunisia, massive purchases from abroad

Milk reserves drained at large-scale retail stores

04 January, 12:55

Milk emergency in Tunisia, massive purchases from abroad Milk emergency in Tunisia, massive purchases from abroad

(by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) - Tunis - A milk-emergency, growing more acute with passing weeks, has forced the Tunisian government to facilitate massive milk purchases abroad, such as from Slovenia. But slowing imports from Slovenia - between 250,000 to 300,000 litres per week, coinciding with year-end holidays in European countries, have pushed Tunisian authorities to acquire milk also from Turkey.

The Tunisian government authorized some private companies to import four million litres of milk from Turkey - quantities that will attenuate but not resolve the milk shortage which is provoking discontent among the population. In many supermarkets - large-scale retail is an important pillar of the commercial sector in Tunisia - signs have been posted indicating the maximum number of milk containers each customer can purchase (typically four) accompanied by requests to not make trouble for employees. Customers are not always able to contain their frustration at not finding milk on the shelves, with obvious negative consequences for those who must care for children and the elderly. To pave the way for additional milk imports, the Agriculture Minister has granted a series of incentives for companies bringing milk from Turkey, such as relief on tariffs and the value-added-tax, in order to avert negative consequences on the retail sale of milk.

The milk shortage is caused by a recent lull in domestic milk production, which stands at roughly 1.3 million litres of milk per day compared to a demand of about 1.5 million litres. Paradoxically, while milk has vanished from shelves, dairy products continue to abound, such as yogurt, which poses questions about dairy-producers' priorities, some analysts complain. The scarcity of milk - aggravated by the fact that effective measures have yet to be made to stem smuggling of contraband goods to Libya - is rendered more problematic by the psychological mechanism triggered in consumers who, afraid of remaining empty-handed, run and grab the largest quantity of containers possible, eliminating reserves, particularly in large retail stores.

In some parts, there are even reports of speculation by traditional vendors, who play on shortages at big retail players by raising prices far higher in defiance of the price fixed by the government. (ANSAmed).

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