Even if the resources of the soil no longer have the preponderant importance of a time in relation to national income, nevertheless Tunisian agriculture is always, directly or indirectly, at the base of the local economy; remember, for example, what has been said above, namely that about 63% of the population is still rural.
According to data published in 1955, based on the most recent agricultural census, the total area reserved for agriculture was 10,474,000 ha, out of 11,154,000 ha of agricultural and forestry area: arable land, 3,443,000 ha; meadows and pastures, 3,661,000 ha; vineyards and fruit and vegetable crops, 930,000 ha; unproductive lands, 2,440,000 ha. Each resident therefore had an agricultural area of 2.3 ha, much lower than the per capita share of neighboring Algeria (5.3 ha), but still higher than that of Morocco (1.8 ha). Taking into account only the workable land and orchards, the per capita value of agricultural area in Tunisia was 1.1 ha against 0.64 for Algeria and 90 for Morocco. To the overall agricultural area values indicated above, 680,000 ha of forest area (forests and scrublands) and alpha areas are added. The expansion of cereal growing is noteworthy: from 1,210,000 ha, to wheat and barley, on average, in the decade 1941-50, it went to 1,856,000 ha in the four-year period 1951-54 and even to 2,616,000 ha in 1956 Wheat, grown on an average area of 730,000 ha in the period 1941-50, was so on 1,139,000 ha in 1951-54 and 1,295,000 ha in 1957; for its part, the barley occupied on average, in the corresponding periods, 480,000, 717,000 and 808,000 ha. The yields of both these cereals are, of course, highly variable from year to year: wheat, in 1953, 823,000 ha and 5,800,000 q; in 1957, 1,295,000 ha and only 4,980,000 q, barley, in 1953, 577,000 ha and 1,800,000 q; in 1957, 808,000 ha and only 1,850,000 q. The olive grove, which is now spread over about 700,000 ha (it was 170,000 in 1881), gives an ever-increasing average product, obtained from 27 million plants (of which about 20 million in production): in 1941-50 there were 363,600 q of oil per year, while in the five-year period 1953-57 it rose to 660,000 q per year (with annual yields that varied between 280,000 and 1,010.000 q). The vineyard, which had grown to 50,600 ha in 1933, dropped to 35,000 ha in 1950, and then went back to 41,000 ha in 1957, with very different yields from year to year (775,000 hl of wine in 1950; 1,600,000 hl in 1957). Fruit growing and horticulture are constantly expanding: 200 ha of new citrus groves (50,000 plants) are added every year to the existing ones, with considerable yields (520,000 q of harvest in 1957, of which just over 1/4 consisted of lemons, compared to 175,000 q in 1945). The date harvest is more or less unchanged (280,000 q in 1953, 330,000 q in 1956 and 280. 000 q in 1957). Tobacco growing is still modest (2000 ha and 11,000 q in 1957). For Tunisia 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
The zootechnical patrimony varies a lot from year to year, also in relation to the climatic conditions, which cannot be remedied, when necessary, by the scarce areas of forage (30,000 ha). From 1,729,000 sheep, 370,000 cattle and 1,282,000 goats in 1946-48 it had gone to 3,215,000 sheep, 456,000 cattle and 1,937,000 goats in 1952-54, to arrive in 1958-59, through very irregular oscillations, 3,793,000 sheep, 504,000 cattle and 1,276,000 goats: to this must be added, again for 1958-59, 85,000 horses, 200,000 donkeys, 54,000 mules and 219,000 camels. Fishing now involves a number of employees that does not reach 12,500 people (12,472 in 1956, with 3,574 boats) between food fishing and sponge fishing, and the catch from 15,200 t in 1951, when fishermen were more numerous, has gone away via scemando: 13,000 t in 1954, 11. 600 in 1956; to this must be added, in the last year, 313 t of sponges (compared to 179 t in 1954). Then there is the production of salmarino, from six salt pans; it fluctuates around 130-135,000 t per year (170,000 in 1958).
The industry took particular impetus after 1940, to initiate the country to at least partial autonomy from imports, in those sectors in which there are local raw materials. However, it is still contained within modest limits: about twenty oil mills equipped with modern systems, some fish canning plants, cement factories (1,350,000 t in 1958), plants for the production of superphosphates, etc. In the mining sector, the extraction of phosphates predominates (in Metlaoui, Redeyef, Mularès, Kalaa-Djerda, Gebel M’Dilla, etc.), whose natural content (58.63 and 65%) is enriched by bringing it to 75%; production, recovering after a period of crisis, went from 1,525,000 t in 1950 to 2,604,000 t in 1955, to drop to 2,067,000 t in 1957. These phosphates are exported, as well as to France, also in Italy, Holland, etc. The iron ore, in non-phosphorous deposits with a metal content between 50 and 60%, comes mainly from the mines of Gerisa (central Tunisia) and also from those of Douaria and Tamera (northern Tunisia): its extraction fluctuates around one million t per year (1,103,000 in 1958). 85% of this mineral comes from Gerisa. Not negligible, although hampered by the dispersion of their deposits, is the extraction of lead ores (37,200 t in 1957) and zinc (6602 t in 1957; but 9500 t in 1954). As for electricity, until 1956 it was obtained only from thermal power stations; now you can count on three water plants. The installed power in 1960 was 140,000 kW and the production from 153, 6 million kWh in 1951 had already risen to 290 million kWh in 1959 and is tending to grow rapidly. In 1954, a pocket of natural gas found in Cape Bon was connected with Tunis, to supply the capital with fuel gas. Foreign trade in the five-year period 1954-58 developed as follows (expressed in millions of francs):
In 1956, 69% of imports and 55% of exports took place with France.
Communications. – The railway network is now considerably smaller than that of the pre-war period; it is spread over 2106 km, of which 1651 are managed by the state and 455 by the Compagnie des Phosphates et Chemins de fer de Gafsa, with traction, at least in part, diesel-electric. The rolling roads extend over about 15,000 km, of which 9145 are permanent, and of these 5938 km are of major communication arteries. At the end of 1960, over 67,500 cars were on the road, of which more than 44,000 were cars. In the ports, the commercial movement is around 4.5 million tons per year. The airport of Tunis (el-Aouina) monopolizes air traffic: in 1956, for example, there was a movement of 2224 aircraft, with 163,549 passengers arriving and departing (in 1953 there were 113,864 passengers and 2022 aircraft).
Finances. – By law 58-90 of September 19, 1958, the Banque Centrale de Tunisie was created, which assumed the privilege of the issue, which previously belonged to the Banque de l’Algerie et de la Tunisie. In addition to the central bank, eight Tunisian banks, eight branches of French banks, a branch of a British bank, numerous savings banks and a development bank, the National Investment Corporation, operate. The current currency is the dinar, established on November 3, 1958, equivalent to one thousand old French francs; in December of the same year, when the French franc was devalued, the dinar was unhooked from the franc itself, and its exchange rate was fixed at 0.42 dinars per 1 US dollar. Although theoretically belonging to the franc zone, the Tunisia pursues the aim to become more and more independent of it; in the’
The gross national product of Tunisia has been estimated at 210 million dinars, 34% from agriculture, 24% from industry and crafts, 23% from trade, the remainder from other activities..