Algeria has lifted the import ban on many fresh fruits and vegetables. According to Michel Marchetto, exporter to Algeria, "a battery of measures that prevented us from exporting have been removed, but very high taxes have been implemented instead. It will either curb exports to Algeria, or encourage the creation of new systems to divert it."
Michel works for Alpex, a French company that exports and sells fresh fruit and vegetables, specializing in green bananas, among other things. "When we started the company in 2012, we specialized in commercializing European apples in Algeria. All was well, until the country went into crisis. "
In 2014, oil prices began to fall, and Algeria faced a trade deficit. "The country wanted to drastically reduce imports, to rebalance its trade. Overnight, exporters faced Algerian government measures, such as import licenses and permits for a potential volume over a pre-determined period of time. We could not export beyond those dates," says Michel.
Over 900 products banned
"In 2016/2017, the government completely banned the import of more than 900 products, including almost all fruits and vegetables, leaving only bananas and garlic. We were very affected by this. Little by little, we could not sell all of our products, and we had to find new products."
As a result, between 2014 and 2015, Alpex began commercializing dried fruits and vegetables, and spices such as garlic and ginger. "This allowed us to somewhat make up for the trend imposed by the Algerian government. Before, apples represented almost 90% of our turnover, and we managed to reduce this percentage by more than half."
Lower the level of protectionism
"Pressured by the international community, Algeria lowered its level of protectionism by removing the ban on all products, but last week we received the detailed provisional additional duty applied to fresh fruit and vegetables with extreme taxes. For example, apples and pears will be taxed at 200%. People will look for ways to get around this new law that is completely unrealistic and abusive for importers, and ultimately for consumers. "
The detailed provisional additional duty received by Michel
Nevertheless, Michel is waiting for the new measures to be enforced to start exporting again to Algeria: "Even with a 200% tax, some customers may still be interested in products like apples, if the purchase prices are low enough.” According to Michel, Algeria is not at all self-sufficient, especially as far as apples are concerned.
Bananas are successful
At the end of 2016, Alpex started commercializing bananas. Today it is their flagship product. "The banana trade is doing very well in Algeria, because it is a rare product for the country. Consequently, bananas were not affected in the same way by all of the government’s measures, which maintained the country’s supply by occasionally validating import licenses for importers who met the specifications defining the profile of importing companies. "
Alpex is partly owned by the owner of Soldive and Les Vergers du Sud, and is also associated with a French trading company whose French-Algerian owner has more than 25 years of specialized experience in this market. Alpex is actively seeking new markets in the Middle East, Near East and Africa.