15 September 2021

SFAX: AGRICULTURAL POLE – First national agricultural producer

Image by Sfax International

Agriculture occupies an important place in the economy of Sfax region. The useful agricultural area represents 93% of the total area of the governorate i.e., 704,000 ha (including 13,230 hectares in irrigated areas) maintained by 54,000 farmers. It is dominated by arboriculture in sec.2 .

1. First national rank in olive production

Olive groves occupy 356,000 ha (i.e., 83% of the total agricultural area and 20% of the national area of olive groves). 8 million trees produce an average of 201,000 tons / year, which represents 20% of national production. The production of olives for the 2019-2020 season reached 325,000 tons which allowed the extraction of 71,000 tons of olive oil 3.

  • Henshir "Al-Shaal": It is the second largest olive grove in the world after that of California. The number of trees exceeds 380,0004, some of which have been planted since 1920, spread over 22 villages in the delegations of "Bir Ali bin Khalifa", "Agereb", "Al-Mahress" and "AlGhrayba".4 , dont certains sont plantés depuis 1920, répartis sur 22 villages dans les délégations de « Bir Ali bin Khalifa", "Agereb", "Al-Mahress" et "AlGhrayba".
  • Henshir "Bishka": It lists about 24,505 hectares, 90% of which are devoted to olive trees, i.e., about 37,000 olive trees, spread over 9 plantations as well as a certain number of fruit trees.5 hectares, dont 90 % sont consacrés aux oliviers, soit environ 37.000 oliviers, répartis sur 9 plantations du domaine, ainsi qu'un certain nombre d'arbres fruitiers.

The olive grove of the region of Sfax is characterized by:

  • Its history: the age of the plantation of olive trees and its expansion, especially during the colonial period thanks to the intervention of centenarians and the local population.
  • The quality of the soil : the availability of arable land, estimated at around 521,000 hectares, most of which is used for agriculture, especially for planting, due to its sandy soil in some areas and petrified in others.6 , dont la plupart sont utilisés pour l'agriculture, notamment pour la plantation, en raison de son sol sablonneux dans certaines zones et pétrifié dans d'autres.
  • The climate : the dominance of the sesame climate, which is characterized by a lack of rain and its retention in some cases for a long period, which is compatible with rain-fed plantations, in particular olive trees.

Olive tree plantations provide more than 700 jobs (technical, administrative, and other) and the number of non-continental workers can exceed 3,000 during the olive harvest season.7 .

The area of land planted with olive trees and fruit trees in 2020 amounted to approximately 420,000 hectares, including 356,000 hectares of olive trees.8 The number of olives has grown from 380,000 olive origins in 1881 to around 8 million olive origins today. The olive trees of Dahir de Sfax provide more than 23% of the Tunisian national production.

This agricultural wealth is exploited by modern oil mills, intended for canning and export (63 companies exporting olive oil), and traditional, most of which is produced for the local market. The 346 oil mills of Sfax constitute 33% of the total Tunisian oil mills and have an average press capacity of 10,000 tons per day. As such, during the 2019-2020 season, only 175 oil mills produced 57% of olive oil production, which earned the Sfax region the top national rank in olive oil production.

2. First national rank in the production of almonds:

Sfax has been known for its almond plantation since the 18th century. This plantation was enlarged in the following century and extended to the domain of "Albora". The almond tree is a plant which is recognized as an ancestral tree anchored for a very long time in the agricultural fabric of Sfax.

The geography and the climate of the region of Sfax offer the appropriate environment for the culture and the production of the "red plant". With 30% of the national production spread over 71,000 ha and offering a production of 5,000 tons, Sfax is ranked first nationally.

Almond core filled and its water hardened, the green outer shell can be removed and consumed as white almonds. Almonds can also be eaten after they have been sun-dried, salted, or roasted to become dried fruits.

Almonds represent the raw material in the manufacture of many traditional pastries which distinguish the Sfaxien food heritage. Among the most famous types of almonds are: Acheek, Ksentini, Zahaf and Fakhfekh. Until today, the almond tree occupies a considerable place in the exports of Sfax.

3. Sfax: The biotechnology is popular!

Organic farming is a sector with high development potential given the global orientation towards organic farming. As such, the cultivation of organic olive trees occupies 9.72% of the total area of olive forests.

The following table gives an idea about the state of progress in Sfax region from this mode until 2020.13 .

Crops Areas cultivated according to the organic method (Hectares)
Olive trees 34.602 Ha
Almonds 643 Ha
Fruit trees 9 Ha
Aromatic crops 6 Ha
Vegetables 1 Ha
Natural pastures 22.361 Ha
Total 57.624 Ha

4. Sfax: the biggest fish market in Tunisia:

The governorate of Sfax ranks first nationally in the production of seafood. Regional sea fishing represents a strategic agricultural activity for the local economy, facilitated by the presence of an appropriate infrastructure of modern fishing ports such as: the “Port of Sfax”, the “Port de Mahrès”, the “Port de Kerkennah”, the “Port of Al-Louza-Elloueta”, the “Port de Alouabed”, the “Port de Skhira”, the “Port de Zaboussa” and the “Port de Sidi Mansour”.

Fishing activities are numerous there, such as coastal fishing and shore fishing, deep-sea fishing, fishing using sponge and bottom trawling, tuna fishing and fire fishing and the traditional fishing of Kerkennah “Chrafi”

This diversity of activities has made Sfax the largest fish market in Tunisia, providing more than 18% of the national production of seafood. In 2020, the latter reached 18,122 tonnes of seafood, including 7,882.84 tonnes exported in 2020 against 10,345.66 tonnes in 2019. The 23% drop in exports is due to the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic. Fishing is ensured by 4,680 fishing boats including more than 257 shrimp trawlers, 25 tuna vessels, 1,942 motor boats and 2,456 sailing boats. The active workforce amounts to 13,141 fishermen.

5. Half of the national milk production:

The region of Sfax has 18 collection centers for fresh milk with a storage capacity of 58,600 liters. The capacity of the milk transport tools of these centers reaches 69,200 liters.15 .

The year 2020 was marked by an 8.5% increase in the collection of fresh milk that reached 61.071 million liters of which 57.17 million liters are intended for milk production.

6. Animal production

  • In 2020, poultry production reached 30,400 tons of white meat for 8.9 million chickens under sanitary control.
  • The region of Sfax has a herd of 26,000 cattle belonging to 2,870 breeders and 484,000 sheep belonging to 27,800 breeders.

7. Investment opportunities16

According to the Agency for the Promotion of Agricultural Investments (APIA), the economy of the Sfax region offers a wide range of niches covering several agricultural sectors, in particular:

  • The expansion of olive orchards, especially those located in irrigated areas
  • The installation of nurseries for olive trees
  • The valorization of olive tree and olive by-products
  • The bottling of olive oil and especially organic oil
  • The practice of market gardening, especially early and late season
  • The cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants
  • Dairy cattle breeding and calf fattening
  • The small breeding
  • The creation of cooling and processing units for agricultural products
  • The development of slaughterhouses and meat processing
  • Upgrading agricultural service cooperative units
  • The creation of roughage storage units
  • The creation of refrigerated transport units for agricultural and fishing products.
  • The development and renewal of the fishing fleet
  • The creation of fish farming projects in floating cages (medium and small)
  • The creation of typical sponge production units

8. Advantages for investment and partnership:17

Several factors make Sfax a particularly attractive city for investment and partnership projects, including:

  • Proximity to the European Union market and other surrounding markets (Maghreb and Middle East): It allows, in comparison with other countries competing with Tunisia, to reduce transport costs and shorten delivery times.
  • Tunisia enjoys an excellent reputation in the international financial markets. It is a signatory to several investment guarantee and non-double taxation treaties and conventions relating to international arbitration and the protection of intellectual property. In terms of "risk", it occupies a leading position in Africa and is positioned among the best emerging countries.
  • Motivating and stimulating investment tax legislation: The new investment law n ° 2016-71 and the investment incentives code make it possible to grant common advantages to all activities and specific advantages to sectors and activities deemed to be priorities for like agriculture, fishing and first processing activities.
  • Appropriate support structures: Tunisia has set up support agencies for the development of investments:
    • APIA : Agency for the Promotion of Agricultural Investments;
    • API Agency for the promotion of industry
    • FIPAForeign Investment Promotion Agency
    • CEPEX : Export Promotion Center;
    • Specialized Technical Centers : Cereals Technical Center, Potato Technical Center, Organic Agriculture, Technical Center, Agri-Food Technical Center, Aquaculture Technical Center.
    • One-shops for the creation of companies in Tunis, Sousse and Sfax;
    • A developed transport system: Tunisia has eight commercial ports equipped to accommodate different modes of transport. The ports of Marseille, Genoa and Barcelona are 24 hours from Tunis and are served by regular lines; The airport infrastructure consists of seven international airports spread across the country and frequented by major airlines from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and America (Canada). Finally, the road network, of more than 32,000 kilometers, allows easy access to all regions of the country with economic potential.
    • An efficient telecommunications network :huge investments have been made for the development of a modern telecommunications system covering all regions of the country. Thus, telephone services (fixed and mobile), Telex, Swift and Internet are available on favorable terms.
    • Availability of lines of credit: Tunisia has negotiated lines of credit with friendly countries (French credit line, Spanish credit line and Italian credit line) to promote the development of partnership projects and trade with these countries.

9. Facilities and guarantees granted to foreign investors:18

  • Freedom to transfer profits and proceeds from the sale of invested capital including capital gains: Law 93-48 establishing the principle of freedom of transfers relating to payments to foreign countries;
  • Bilateral investment protection agreements concluded with Tunisia's partner countries, in particular: Arab countries, Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, USA;
  • Bilateral agreements of non-double taxation signed in particular with: the countries of the Arab Maghreb Union, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, South Korea, Denmark, Egypt, Spain, France, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA;
  • Tunisia's accession to the New York convention of 10/6/1958 that ensures the recognition and execution of foreign arbitral awards;
  • Promulgation in April 1993 of an arbitration code, authorizing the Tunisian administration to resort to arbitration procedure and guaranteeing the execution in Tunisia of arbitral awards rendered in any country and in any language;
  • Tunisia's accession to the MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) for the coverage of non-commercial risks;
  • Tunisia's accession to the O.M.C (World Trade Organization);
  • Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement signed between the European Union and the Republic of Tunisia in 1995;
  • Association agreement signed with EFTA.
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