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In and around the Tunisian coastal city of Gabes, henna has long been a key driver of the economy – so much so that the plant is known as "red gold". But a water crisis and changing consumer habits are making farmers think twice about planting henna shrubs, despite the fact their coveted leaves have for centuries been ground down to paint nails, tint hair and ink temporary tattoos, especially for weddings.For farmers like Akrout, that means waiting 15 to 20 days for access to the water supply.The water crisis is having a dramatic impact on henna output.It's not only supply side pressures that are undermining the market – the demand for local henna is also falling, as people choose to go for foreign alternatives.In the capital Tunis, shampoos based on the plant have begun to find their way into health stores.Only a few entrepreneurs sell Tunisian henna abroad – and they do so without state support – so exports are minimal, despite the "good quality" produced by Gabes' farmers, Ghiloufi said.
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