Tunisia Urges Prayers for Rain as Fears of Drought Stalk Economy

Tunisia urged citizens to pray for rain this weekend amid fears of a second consecutive drought in parts of North Africa that would further test economies reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Muslims can make “recourse to God Almighty with supplication” at times “when the descent of the beneficial rain is delayed,” Tunisia’s Religious Affairs Ministry said in a statement, calling for Sunday prayers.

Neighboring Algeria has also seen a dearth of precipitation since mid-January, renewing concern both may see a return to drought conditions, according to a recent weekly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crop conditions in Tunisia, however, were ranked better this year than last.

Tunisia’s grains harvest fell 35% in 2020, mostly due to a dry spell that spanned from January until mid-March, forcing the country to import about a third more than usual. Agriculture contributes about 10% to economic output, while the country mainly imports soft wheat and barley.

Falling harvests had added pressure to an economy that’s already been hobbled by long-running political infighting. Tunisia’s real gross domestic product contracted an estimated 8.8% in 2020, largely because of stringent containment measures and the shutdown of the important tourism industry, REDD Intelligence said Thursday in a report.

The head of Tunisia’s National Society for the Use and Distribution of Water last month blamed increasing water scarcity on climate change, warning of irregular rainfall and droughts that could last as long as three straight years.

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