Tunisia has decided to import phosphates for the first time despite being the world's fifth largest producer of the substances, Russia Today has reported.
"We have had to import phosphates to meet the shortfall of agricultural fertilisers and ensure sufficient stocks of the substance," explained Abdel-Wahab Agroud, the Director-General of the state-owned Chemical Group. The first consignment of imported phosphates, estimated at 40,000 tons, will arrive in Tunisia from Algeria before the end of September.
The official stressed the need to "maintain no less than 75 per cent of the production capacity of the Chemical Group's plants, which has fallen in recent years to 40 per cent." He added that Tunisia is seeking in the first instance to import 500,000 tonnes of phosphates in several batches.
Tunisian phosphate production has declined due to repeated protests and labour strikes, which led to it being suspended for several months. Losses of millions of dollars have been incurred by the Gafsa Phosphate Company.
In response to these developments, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi called for talks to be held with the strikers. Production must be resumed as soon as possible, especially amidst the difficult economic situation that the country is undergoing due to the financial crisis and the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.