CONTEXT AND CHALLENGES
Date cultivation is growing, but exports are stagnating
The cultivation of dates is one of the most important economic sectors in the southwestern part of Tunisia. In recent years, new cultivation methods have been introduced, which has made it possible to tap new water sources and thus expand the production area. Today, Tunisia produces about 330,000 tonnes of dates per year – and the trend is strongly upwards. The most important market is the EU, especially Germany and France. Only 100,000 tonnes of dates can be sold on the domestic market so far. Thus, exports are essential for the producers’ economic survival.
The cultivation and processing of the fruits is labour-intensive and has a high employment potential. For the southwestern part of Tunisia, which is economically weak, the expansion of trade is therefore of particular importance. In addition, most of the workers employed to process dates are women.
PROJECT APPROACH AND PROJECT GOALS
Vacpa Boudjebel invests in processing capacities
Eleven percent of Tunisian date exports (in volume) come from Vacpa Boudjebel, which specialises in the processing and distribution of high-quality dates. Some of them come from organic cultivation. Under the leadership of Vacpa Boudjebel, a consortium of four companies is now investing in the construction of additional facilities for the preservation, sorting, processing, and packaging of dates. New machinery is also to be purchased for this purpose. This will allow the consortium to take full advantage of the market potential.
To reduce electricity costs that are high due to the region’s remoteness, the company will operate its own solar plant. The climatic conditions are ideal for solar energy. In addition, a modern IT infrastructure will be set up to better connect the consortium partners involved in date processing.
STATUS AND OUTLOOK
Partner consortium plans 620 new jobs
The consortium partners will create a total of 620 new jobs in their own companies as part of the project – about 550 of them for women. In doing so, they will make an important contribution to the promotion of women's employment. The introduction of air conditioning, more modern production processes and the purchase of a bus for passenger transport will also significantly improve working conditions for 1,600 employees. The higher processing capacity will lead to a strong increase in the purchase of dates, which is expected to result in the creation of numerous jobs among farmers and producers. Up to 1,200 of the workers employed by the consortium partners are expected to complete additional training within three years after the start of operations of the new facilities. The improved sales opportunities will significantly improve the situation of date producers and serve to stabilise the economic situation in the regions where the dates are cultivated.
The consortium, led by Vacpa Boudjebel, plans to invest 7.5 million euros. The Facility Investing for Employment grants a subsidy of 1.86 million euros (25%). The facility will primarily finance capital goods such as refrigeration and sorting equipment. The purchase of the solar system is also subsidised.
The Facility Investing for Employment (IFE) of KfW Development Bank is part of the Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). With its support, the facility wants to remove barriers that prevent the creation of new and better jobs in the private sector.