Tunisian dates exporter VACPA secures US$12M from IFC to cushion business against COVID-19 effects

TUNISIA—Leading Tunisian dates exporting company VACPA has secured financing amounting to US$12.41 million from the IFC as part of efforts to cushion its business from the adverse effects of the COVID19 pandemic.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, in a press statement noted that the financing to VACPA was part of an effort to preserve jobs, especially for women, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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VACPA according to the IFC is Tunisia’s largest exporter of dates, buys its fruit from close to 1,000 farmers and employs more than 1,700 workers, 80 percent of whom are women.

IFC’s explained that its investment will be delivered in two tranches. The first tranche of € 5.5 million (US$6.20 million) will come as working capital to meet the company’s immediate needs.

The second tranche of € 4.5 million (US$5.08 million) will, according to IFC, be used by VACPA to expand its operations, diversify into date concentrate production, and improve the supply chain.

Agriculture is a key industry for Tunisia, accounting for 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and around 10 percent of total exports.

VACPA exported 13,500 tons of dates in 2019, mainly to Europe, North America and South-East Asia.

The COVID-19 crisis, however, has impacted both demand and supply in the food industry, and put a financial strain on businesses.

IFC’s financial package is flanked by an advisory program which will support farmers as they adopt sustainable irrigation technologies and implement better agricultural practices.

“With IFC’s advisory support, farmers will be able to modernize their operations and adopt sustainable farming practices,” said Mohsen Boujbel, the founder and general manager of VACPA.

The advisory program will also help VACPA attain Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) Certification, recognizing the company’s efforts in creating equal career opportunities for women and men.

“We adapted our financial package to VACPA so it could emerge stronger as a company, providing steady employment to many rural women and buying produce from small-hold farmers,” said Beatrice Maser, IFC’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

IFC has invested in more than 32 companies in Tunisia since 1963.

The institution’s aim is to support the development of the country’s private sector, creating jobs and helping to combat poverty.

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