The phosphate production decreased by 25 % in the first nine months this year to 2.6 million tonnes compared with the same period last year, the Phosphate Gafsa said on Wednesday.
Phosphate exports are a key source of foreign currency reserves, which have dropped to levels worth just 77 days of imports, according to Tunisia’s central bank.
Weak phosphate output in the first nine months due to protests will complicate the government’s plan to reach 6 million tonnes of production by the end of this year. In 2017, output was 4.5 million tonnes.
Tunisia produced about 8.2 million tonnes of phosphate in 2010 but output fell after its 2011 revolution. Annual output has not exceeded 4.5 million tonnes since 2011.
Officials say lower production has caused Tunisia to lose markets such as India and Brazil, and the country has turned to focus on exporting phosphates to European countries.
Tunisia lost more than $2 billion in recent years due to the drop in its phosphate exports after repeated protests in the main producing region of Gafsa, where unemployed youth demanding jobs blockaded rail transport tracks near mines.