The Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) approved the budget of the Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries Ministry, as part of the 2024 State Budget, with 132 votes in favour, five abstentions and three votes against.
The budget allocates TND 656.4 million for water resources projects, an increase of 12% compared to 2023, reaching TND 2.2 billion.
Responding to questions from MPs, Agriculture Minister Abdelmonem Belati recalled the difficult situation facing the country in terms of water resources, pointing out that dam reserves had reached an all-time low (23% full).
Belati attributed this situation to the drought, the high temperatures last summer (over 50 degrees), which led to the evaporation of 900,000 cubic metres of surface water, and the wasteful and uncontrolled use of water resources by certain actors in the agricultural sector.
He pointed out that urgent measures had been taken to deal with the consequences of this situation and to promote the supply of drinking water and irrigation
The minister stressed that, despite the drought, the state was working on the construction of additional dams in anticipation of rainy years.
On the question of the cost of building and maintaining dams, Belati pointed out that the Mallègue dam cost TND 4,000 million to rehabilitate, while the construction of a new dam would cost less than 500 million dinars, hence the construction of the upper Mallègue dam, which should be operational in 2025.
He underlined the state’s commitment to desalination, noting that the Zarat desalination plant will be commissioned at the end of 2023, while work is being accelerated on the Sfax desalination plant, which will be completed in 2024.
With regard to the water table, he pointed out that over-exploitation had led to salinisation and partial depletion. He added that the choice is based on the desalination of water in order to use saline water for irrigation needs, particularly in view of the persistent scarcity of rainwater, which obliges the competent authorities to
prepare and adapt to the situation.
The agricultural sector will also focus on making the best use of groundwater and non-conventional water, i.e. treated wastewater, which amounts to 300 million cubic metres in Tunisia, of which only 6 to 10% is used,
The Minister of Agriculture pointed out that in addition to developing the quality of this water in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment, the current problem is the transfer of water to regions in need of water. This means speeding up the work and developing the process as soon as possible, he said, adding that this water transfer project will be carried out within the framework of international cooperation.
Belati pointed out that the increase in feed prices is due to the monopoly situation, and stressed that the management of the sector and the fight against corruption are among the priorities of his ministry.
He went on to say that digitalisation, through the creation of a database involving all stakeholders and identifying needs, would hel
p to fight corruption and rationalise funding.
With regard to the grain sector, he said that the situation was bad and explained the resort to imports by the poor harvest this season, which did not exceed 0.3 million tonnes.
In this context, he stressed that the State’s decision was to increase the area under irrigation for durum wheat, with a target of over 70,000 hectares, in order to achieve self-sufficiency and reduce imports.
With regard to the delay in the payment of certain premiums due to exceptional circumstances, he said that the Ministry had a clear list and timetable and that everyone would receive the sums due to them.
With regard to the dairy sector, which is closely linked to the forage sector, he said that work was continuing to find a solution as soon as possible and to support farmers, especially small farmers.
Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse