TUNIS: Bananas are in the top 10 smuggled goods entering the country from either Algeria or Libya. Bananas here are about 30% more expensive than in the UK , according to a World Bank study.
The bright yellow star of cross-border contraband can be found at fruit stalls across the country.
“Bananas from Algeria cost half of what I would have to pay for wholesale produce in Tunisia,” explains a 43-year-old fruit vendor in Tunis who bought his bananas from across the border.
Neither Algeria, Libya nor Tunisia produce bananas domestically, but Tunisia has a 36% duty on imported bananas and only a handful of businessmen have the licence to import them.
More than half of the Tunisian economy is closed to new entrants”
In the past, contacts with the circle of deposed President Ben Ali allowed some to circumvent the duty and charge a premium. Four years after the revolution, the duty is still in place – and the market has been flooded by smuggled bananas.
While Tunisia has made significant political strides this year by managing an internationally applauded transition towards democracy, the economic problems that caused the revolution in 2011 remain.
Illegal cross-border trade has become a headache for the Tunisian government and it is losing tax revenue.
The World Bank estimates that in 2013, informal trade was worth approximately $1.2bn (£762m), or 2.2 % of Tunisia’s annual economic output or GDP.