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Results and Discussion

Empirical results of our calculations are reported in Table 12.5. They reveal the current competitive position of the Tunisian productive sectors. Beginning with the three traditional subsectors of relevance in Tunisian exports and the EU market, our findings show that Tunisian exports of fish and crustaceans are competitive, in spite of the fact that over the last decade there has been a loss of competitiveness given the significant decline in the RCA from 84 percent in 1995 (Chebbi and Gil 1999) to 26 percent in 2012. Many efforts have been made by the government in previous years to promote fish and crustacean exports and to implement more effective management of fisheries. In terms of services, the government has decided to launch an upgrade program with the French Development Agency to prepare Tunisian firms for the new phase of liberalization. These efforts could be extended to other sectors and used as lessons of competitiveness-enhancing policies. Modernization of the production fleet which is very old and traditional and better organization of the subsector will enhance the competiveness of local producers and can reverse the negative trend detected.

Regarding animal or vegetable fats, oil and wax products, the RCA has decreased from 48 percent in 1995 (Chebbi et Gil 1999) to 21 percent in 2012. However, it is still positive and Tunisia remains competitive. A major part of this competiveness stems from olive oil exports. Nonetheless, there is an ample margin to improve competiveness of this sector since a major part of olive oils is exported to the EU under Inward Processing Relief Traffic (IPRT) conditions. Indeed, Tunisian olive oils are re-exported under European brands after processing or just bottling (Anania and Pupo d’Andrea 2011).

Fruits also show a positive RCA over the period of study, as vegetables do during most of the period. Overall, our findings prove that these

HS2 chapter

Tunisia—UE

Tunisia—UMA

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

01—Live animals

-144

-134

-136

-138

-132

-140

189

175

182

193

197

189

02—Meat and edible meat offal

-127

-121

-149

-112

-123

-139

-32

4

7

14

-133

-174

03—Fish and crustaceans

37

35

I

22

42

26

-147

-142

-120

-80

-100

-94

04—Dairy, eggs, honey and edible products

-132

-123

-139

-121

-117

-128

102

126

106

114

87

114

05—Products of animal origin

62

72

55

73

76

65

-155

-156

-108

-44

-52

-17

06—Live trees and other plants

-29

-18

-40

-41

-29

-48

64

74

70

87

78

38

07—Edible vegetables

-57

2

-49

26

77

7

-52

-45

-31

-78

11

8

08—Edible fruits and nuts, peels of citrus/melons

65

76

59

77

80

71

17

13

16

14

17

11

09—Coffee, tea, mate and spices

62

70

50

54

45

36

90

94

90

114

134

132

10—Cereals

-132

-123

-139

-121

-117

-128

90

169

0

0

191

198

11—Milling industry products

-132

-123

-127

-90

-113

-127

46

2

18

63

62

30

12—Oil seeds/Misc. grains/med. plants/straw

-66

-80

-96

-78

-59

-81

-34

4

25

62

13

19

13—Lac, gums, resins, etc.

-132

-123

-130

-116

-117

-124

75

35

108

140

33

89

14—Vegetable planting materials

62

69

54

74

62

71

36

34

24

41

8

37

15—Animal or vegetable fats, oil and waxes

45

54

33

54

27

21

48

70

59

71

82

71

16—Edible preparations meat, fish, crustaceans

5

49

44

58

62

53

19

19

19

18

28

37

17—Sugars and sugar confectionery

-133

-114

-142

-135

-127

-135

61

81

105

54

64

113

18—Cacao and cocoa preparations

-124

-101

-102

-129

-129

-138

82

82

81

96

96

92

(continued)

Table 12.5 (continued)

HS2 chapter

Tunisia—UE

Tunisia—UMA

2007 2008

2009

2010 2011

2012

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

19—Preps, of cereals, flour, starch of milk

-87 -71

-91

-81 -79

-88

40

29

33

29

2Z

31

20—Preps, of vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc.

-108 -46

-63

-54 -65

-84

69

38

41

54

37

48

21—Misc. edible preparations

2 -3

8

7 -9

-33

-26

-29

-38

-22

-9

-40

22—Beverages, spirits and vinegar

-12 12

-8

-13 -1

-44

-84

-47

-38

-77

-33

-15

23—Residues from food industries, animal feed

kO

l_n

1

CO

1

-94

-109 -119

-118

147

172

168

159

157

172

Source: Authors' calculation sectors could take advantage of the free trade with the EU as chapters 07, 08, 09 and 14 display high competiveness. Particularly, dates are included in chapter 08. Despite the strong performance of the dates sector, several structural weakness and handicaps have been identified in this sector. Literature mentions several possible causes such as the insufficient production material and techniques, the lack of research and marketing services, weak farming organizations, the irregularity of the trading system and the inconsistent quality of the packaged products, as well as a high rate of product infestation (APIA 2008; Jemni et al. 2014).

Turning now to the relevant products that show negative competitiveness, the RCA of live animals has substantially decreased to reach an indicator of -140 percent compared to Chebbi and Gil’s (1999) results. They computed an RCA of -60 percent in 1995 before Tunisia was engaged in the Barcelona process. Furthermore, the meat and edible meat offal subsectors display a similar trend suggesting that these Tunisian sectors do not have any comparative advantage to export this type of product to Europe. The decreasing protection shown earlier may be the cause behind the low competitiveness of local production. On the other hand, at the policy level, the RCA of the meat subsector could be improved as long as farmers’ performance can be enhanced through information campaigns, training actions and extension services.

Despite the relevant importance of the cereal sector within the Tunisian agricultural policies, the RCA indicator continues to be negative indicating that local producers are less competitive than their European counterparts. In fact, Tunisia does not have a comparative advantage to produce cereals and indeed imports from the EU are still very important. Many factors are behind the low competiveness of this sector. In Tunisia, farmers are far from the international cereal production standards (Bachta 2011). Furthermore, increasing input costs borne by Tunisian farmers reduce their competiveness compared to their EU counterparts. On the other hand, the potential of production in Tunisia is not yet achieved due to the spread of small farm size, which represents about 75 % of the total. Thus, local production cannot take advantage of economies of scale.

With respect to another geographic trade area (UMA), it is worth noting that the countries of UMA have a similar economic structure with the dominance of the agricultural sector. Indeed, they offer similar agri-food products. In general, it appears that Tunisian products are more competitive than their UMA counterparts. However, it is important to note that the agri-food trade flows with UMA countries are limited and restricted to a small number of agri-food products.

 
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