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August 21, 2012 (TSR) – The Algerian government is equipping an area of 1.2 million hectares with supplementary irrigation facilities through an investment of 150 billion dinars (about 1.823 billion USD) to enable the production of cereals, according to a report from the National Bureau of Studies for Rural Development (BNEDER).
Taking into account a biennial rotation (cereal/fallow), the report said, a target area of 1.2 million hectares would be irrigated by a water saving system. “We evaluated the cost at over DZD 150 billion,” the Director of BNEDER, Aboud Saleh Bey, told APS.
The Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (BADR) has expressed its willingness to support such an investment.
The rate of return on investment of this irrigation system is estimated at 19 per cent of the amount of investment approved, and this would accure from the third year of implementation, according to a study carried out for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on the impact of supplemental irrigation on crop yields.
This study revealed a potential of 2.4 million hectares which can be irrigated from surface and underground water. Out of the 3.3 million hectares reserved for cereal cultivation, only 95,000 hectares are currently equipped with means of supplemental irrigation.
The study took into account the climate constraints to which agriculture in Algeria is exposed, including drought and floods, which have become extreme phenomena threatening agricultural production.
Algeria is one of the most important cereals importer in the world. Consumption of cereal products in Algeria is relatively high. It oscillates around an annual average of 220 kg per capita, that is more than Tunisia with 205 kg/inhabitant and less than Morocco and its 240 kg/inhabitant. The importance of import streams comes from that Algerian agriculture satisfy only 35-40% of the market demand in cereal products. This demand is fed by the cereal’s consumption model with dominant “cereal” (Bread pancake, pizza, m’hadjeb, cakes, couscous and surrogates, pastas).
Algeria’s new vision of integrated agricultural development as a project-based sector is designed to reverse years of previous state policies on collectivism which so damaged agriculture in Algeria. The effort now is to promote “harmonious ” development and to improve the conditions of rural communities and involving the communities in agricultural production and thus to consolidate rural renewal. Ultimately the cultivation of the land must revolve round the farmer who must be allowed to benefit from his successful cultivation of the land. The need for larger agricultural units is there but agricultural communities have to be able to benefit form their work without resorts to subsidies.
Dr. Rachid Benaissa said at the Interprofessional Cereals Board conference this year that 40% of the population lives in rural areas and that “the countryside must be synonymous with potential to add value.”
The constraints of the agricultural sector, include a deficiency of rainfall and an insuffiecient soil fertility. Two
elements that leave the yield per hectare on average, to 10 quintals, whereas it is 70 quintals in Europe. He added that the production per hectare is expected to reach 55 quintals in 2012, EL Moudjahid reported.
According to forecasts made by the CEO of CATO, between 56 and 58 million quintals of cereals are expected under the 2011-2012 campaign, while the yield per hectare to 18 quintals will on average. The second record after that of 2009 (61 million cwt). Noureddine Kehal will report back to the import bill, almost $ 450 million at the end of April 2012 against more than $ 850 million the same period of 2011. A trend that will continue as part of efforts to improve the performance of the sector.
If Algeria can achieve food security and lower its imports it will help rectify its balance of payments as it has always had a large food import bill. It has acknolwedged that oil and gas revenues will not plug the gap forever and indeed lower oil prices because of economic recession will bring down revenue in the short term.Lack of water irrigation systems is still limiting food production. If this could be resolved Algeria might become an exporter of certain crops in the future.