Tunisian Project Streamlines Food Export Controls

A recently completed digitalisation of paper-based procedures for obtaining quality control permits for Tunisian food exports is expected to produce considerable time and cost savings for businesses in this important sector.

Tunisia requires food exporters to hold a technical control certificate for every overseas shipment, guaranteeing the quality of their goods and reducing the risk of rejection on sanitary and phytosanitary grounds when the products reach their destination.

Obtaining this certificate entails the scheduling of a physical inspection, laboratory analyses and several follow-up calls and emails. This onerous process increases the time and cost of doing business and discouraging access to global markets, particularly for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The Alliance, through its implementing partner Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), supported government agencies in simplifying and modernising this key component of Tunisia’s export trade environment.

The digital platform, which is integrated into Tunisia’s Single Window, (TTN) is projected to reduce the application process by 4.5 days for exporters of processed foods. Digitalisation will bring greater predictability, enabling electronic applications for permits and physical inspections as well as laboratory analyses. Compliant certificates can then be transferred automatically to Customs.

Additionally, the new platform will allow exporters to extend the validity of certificates, saving them at least a day they must currently spend renewing a permit if, as frequently happens, it expires prior to export because of the length of time it takes to obtain it.

Cumulatively, these improvements are projected to save the sector US$ 200,000 a year by mitigating wasted time and logistical costs, but this figure is expected to grow because of the positive impact digitalisation will have in stimulating trade and enhancing competitiveness.

A collaborative, public private partnership approach, entailed local business involvement throughout the project, from initial consultations on technical specifications through to development and final testing. Aside from time and cost savings, engagement through partnership has enhanced trust, paving the way for future sectoral reforms, and increasing competitiveness.

In 2021, food exports accounted for 11% of Tunisian exports, worth US$ 1.4 billion, and employing almost 16% of the population. Olive oil and dates are the biggest exports, followed by fish products, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Its main export markets are the European Union countries of France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

Dorra Borgi, Director General, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Trade and Export Development said, “The platform offers transparency, time and cost gains, guarantees an optimised flow and could also improve the ranking of Tunisia in FDI indicators.”

Imen Bahlous, Director of the International Cooperation Office, Tunisian Customs said, “The platform will improve competitiveness of economic operators as well as their performance in export, especially strengthening the transparency of operations.”

Ibtissem Jmel, Export Manager at the Association of Cap Bon Canned Food Producers (SCAPCB) said, Before I discovered this platform, I had to fill out 3 to 4 different forms . It was complicated and time consuming. The platform solves this problem entirely.”