ALGERIA – The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has projected that Algeria will import 8.7 million tonnes of wheat, nearly 1.2 million tonnes more than a year earlier.

According to USDA, this jump in purchases is linked to production which should contract by nearly 600,000 tonnes to 2.7 million tonnes, due to the dry and hot conditions prevailing in the non-irrigated cultivation areas.

Algeria is among the largest consumers of wheat in the world whose consumption accounts for 60% of the food ration in the country.

The country consumes an average of 11 million tonnes of wheat per year, making it the second consumer of the commodity in North Africa behind Egypt.

However, although domestic production has improved over the years, it remains weather-driven and does not meet domestic demand.

USDA predicts the yield per hectare at 1.3 tonnes against 1.5 tonnes a year earlier hence the climb in import forecast.

Earlier, the USDA slashed Algeria’s wheat and barley outlook for the marketing year 2023-24 following an ongoing drought and heat conditions in the country’s non-irrigated areas.

According to USDA, given the unfavorable outlook, Algeria is strengthening its wheat reserves through imports hence Post maintains its alignment with USDA’s official estimate raising wheat imports to 8.7 million MT and barley imports to 700,000 MT in MY 2023/24.

However, Recently, the government divested itself from agricultural production and processing allowing the private sector to take the lead, and millers form a significant part of this private sector.

Agriculture Minister Abdelhafid Henni announced that the state had opened up 200,000 hectares of state land to private investors as the country bets to reach one million hectares of cereal-growing land in the south of the country by the end of next year, with an expected yield of 70-80 quintals per hectare.

Henni intimated that the earmarked agricultural land is developed by the Algerian National Agricultural Land Office (ONTA) and distributed in the wilayas of Adrar, El Ménéa, Timimoune, Ouargla, Illizi, and Djanet regions for the cultivation of cereals, primarily wheat.

He stated that the move intends to cushion the country from food insecurity as well as cushion itself from import bills which in 2021 amounted to about US$2.25 billion for wheat purchases alone.

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