The Algerian government is turning to its banana growers to help narrow its trade gap. The nation wasn’t able to really develop its non-energy sectors before oil prices fell, so the need to push the state-controlled economy to produce goods it currently buys abroad is growing ever more urgent.
Food imports, accounting for around 20% of Algeria’s purchases from abroad, totalled $8.07 billion in 2019, and the government has been providing loans at low interest rates for farmers to grow other crops too.
Agriculture Minister Abdelhamid Hamdani this week announced plans to cut that annual bill by at least $2.5 billion by boosting domestic output and rationing spending on purchases from abroad. “It is imperative to modernise the (agricultural) sector and provide all facilities for farmers,” he told parliament.
In 2020, overall imports declined 18% to $34.4 billion as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted global trade, but the deficit still widened because export earnings dropped 33% to $23.8 billion.
Some experts believe that, if the government implements all promises made to farmers, the horti sector could end up helping out on both sides of the trade account - by first meeting domestic consumption and then generating supplementary production abroad.
“For bananas, our objective is to expand farmed areas to achieve self-sufficiency before moving to exports,” one grower told reuters.com.
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