The humble Dutch potato is at the centre of a major row in Tunisia as farmers say potatoes imported from the Netherlands are so cheap that local production is being undermined.
Mustafa Ben Jamaila from the Tunisian Potato Producer's League complains of a vicious circle which is making farmers' lives a misery:
“We used to export potatoes to various countries, but there was excessive production and that led to decline of prices due to loss of balance between supply and demand. This led to farmers not growing potatoes the following season.”
The ministry of agriculture in Tunis therefore felt compelled to import potatoes to meet demand. Prices really started to plummet with the new imports - largely from the Netherlands, but also from Turkey and Egypt.
A surge in imports of potatoes - a mainstay of the Tunisian diet - has now caused the market price for a 25-kilo bag to drop to one sixth of what it was.
The Tunisian government is now taking urgent action to quell the growing anger of its farmers and has put measures in place to ensure thousands of tonnes of local potatoes will be purchased and placed in storage. These stocks can be released as needed and the price paid will cover the farmers' costs.
Over 25,000 hectares, equal to 17 percent of the total cultivated land in Tunisia, is used for potato farming. The crop is the country’s second most important one after tomatoes.