Algeria revises grain harvest figures, warns potato imports

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A farmer inspects a stalk of wheat at a farm near Setif, 300 km east of Algiers in this picture taken 11 May, 2008. High world grain prices should make this a golden age for Algerian wheat farmers, but a legacy of mismanagement means the former Mediterranean farming superpower is struggling to regain its lost agricultural glory. Photo – Louafi Larbi/Reuters

Algerian Agriculture Minister Rachid Benaissa on Sunday said he expects grain harvest for this year to be between 5.2 and 5.4 million tonnes, cutting a previous forecast of 5.8 million tonnes.

He explained that these anticipated import operations were aimed at ensuring the security of supply in the country.

“Early in June, we announced that we will have between 56 and 58 million quintals (10 quintals = one metric tonne). Now, we are talking about 52 million quintals due to the heatwave and also the fire which damaged some parcels of agricultural land,” Benaissa told National Radio on Sunday.

“The latest figures I have show a production between 52 and 54 million quintals. Confirmations are in the process of being received,” he said, adding that the 2011-2012 crop season was “pretty good” for barley.

Algeria, a big importer of cereals, recorded a harvest of 45 million quintals in 2010-2011.

Last June, Nouredine Kehal, the director of the Algerian Inter-Professional Office of Cereals (OAIC), announced Algeria would not have to import durum wheat and barley because of the good forecasts for the 2012 crop season.

On the other hand, the OAIC said its imports of wheat would continue in 2012 to meet domestic demand.

Last August, the OAIC bought 500,000 tonnes of durum wheat to meet the needs of the beginning of the year 2013. Last June, the OAIC also imported 600,000 tonnes of wheat at a price of 286 USD per tonne against a current price of US$350 per tonne.

Potato Imports

“The government might resort to supplementary imports of potato to face possible stock shortages and speculation on prices in the markets,” Algeria Press Service (APS) quoted Algerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Rachid Benaissa as saying on Sunday.

“If it is necessary, and in order to avoid any speculation, it would be useful to authorise potato import,” Benaissa told the National Radio.

“The decision will be taken in relation to the evolution (of the situation) and with the sector’s professionals to avoid all speculation,” added Benaissa, who has been renamed as a head of agriculture department.

“A possible authorisation for import is temporary, serving to destroy speculation, and where quantities will be limited and submitted to quality control,” he said.

The supplementary imports will not exceed 2 percent of the current production, which is close to 4 million tonnes per year and will be entrusted to recognised importers, unlike 2007, where the ministry resorted to a tender for granting potato import authorisations.

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