IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is providing EUR10mn in financing to Tunisian date processing company VACPA, part of an effort to preserve jobs, especially for women, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company, the country’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 investment is delivered in two tranches ─ EUR5.5mn as working capital to meet the company’s immediate needs and EUR4.5mn with which VACPA plans 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.
“Not only will we continue to support livelihoods of rural dwellers through IFC’s financial package, but 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.
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. 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. EDGE is the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality.
“IFC is softening the economic blow so that businesses can continue to operate and pay their workers during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Beatrice Maser, IFC’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “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.”
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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