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Cablegate: Tunisia: Minister of Agriculture Pledges

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0799 3031614
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301614Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6924
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS TUNIS 000799

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG (HAYES), EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT (PLOWDEN)
STATE PASS USTR (BURKHEAD) AND USAID (MCCLOUD)
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (MASON), ADVOCACY CTR (TABINE), AND
CLDP (TEJTEL AND MCMANUS)
RABAT FOR AG ATTACHE AHMED
CASABLANCA FOR FCS (KITSON)
CAIRO FOR SPEAKS/O'DOWD
LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHERS
OES (SENSENEY AND LAWRENCE)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIA: MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE PLEDGES
COOPERATION

REF: A. TUNIS 781
B. STATE 107298
C. TUNIS 757
D. TUNIS 507

Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

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Summary
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1. (SBU) The Ambassador and Tunisian Minister of Agriculture
Abdessalem Mansour discussed expanding bilateral agriculture
cooperation through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
covering cereal production, dairy and meat production, and
tree crops. The Government of Tunisia's (GOT) top priority
on agriculture is to become self-sufficient in grains,
Mansour asserted. Expanding U.S.-Tunisian cooperation on
agriculture would help implement the goals of President
Obama's Cairo speech as well as the Secretary's initiative on
Partnering for Food Security. End summary.

---------------------------------------------
Room for Cooperation on a Key Economic Sector
---------------------------------------------

2. (U) The Ambassador paid a courtesy call on Minister of
Agriculture and Water Resources Abdessalem Mansour October
30. Mansour opened by summarizing Tunisia's agriculture
sector, pointing to its key role in the Tunisian economy.
Agriculture represents between 12 and 13 percent of GDP, and
up to 18 percent including income from the broader
agribusiness sector. The sector employs between 16 and 18
percent of Tunisia's total work force and creates 10 percent
of exports and 10 percent of total investment.

3. (U) Mansour explained that the Agriculture Ministry's key
goal was self-sufficiency in cereals, particularly in the
soft wheat used to make bread. While Tunisia is at times a
net exporter of durum wheat (used for pasta and couscous),
production of soft wheat rarely meets domestic demand. The
Ministry seeks to expand wheat production through more
intensive cultivation on existing plots (via irrigation) and
by expanding wheat production into dry and marginal areas.

4. (SBU) Mansour proposed to deepen U.S.-Tunisian
agricultural cooperation through increased exchanges and
technical cooperation. He promised to submit a draft MOU to
the Embassy in the coming weeks that would cover cereals,
dairy and meat production, and tree crops. Mansour also
expressed interest in expanding U.S. investment in Tunisian
agriculture, pointing to the potential to reach European
markets via EU-Tunisian trade agreements currently under
negotiation.

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Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The Ministry of Agriculture currently participates
in USDA-sponsored training programs such as the Cochran
Fellowship Program and the Norman Borlaug Fellowship Science
and Technology Program. We believe that expanding
agricultural cooperation with Tunisia would help fulfill one
of the goals of President Obama's June 4 Cairo speech (ref
D), as well as the Partnering for Food Security initiative
outlined by the Secretary in September (refs A and B). In
addition, agricultural cooperation is one part of the 2004
U.S.-Tunisia Science and Technology Agreement, which the GOT
has indicated it intends to ratify soon (ref C). We will
continue to report progress on this potentially important
area of bilateral engagement. End comment.

GRAY

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