Algeria, one of the world’s largest grain importers, working on an initiative offering foreign investors agricultural concessions to provide a major agricultural boost
In this Monday, April 11, 2016 photo, Egyptian farmers stand in front of wheat crops on their land in Kafr Hamouda village, in Zagazig, 63 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Cairo, Egypt. Farmers begin to use a small, relatively cheap plow allowing them to nearly double the yields of their wheat. The new technology could one day help Egypt alleviate water shortages that threaten to cripple the Arab world's most populous country. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Algeria plans to offer foreign investors concessions for farm land for the first time, according to an official document, as the oil producer seeks to boost food output and reduce reliance on imports, Reuters reported.Under the plan any foreign investor would need to work in partnership with the state or a private Algerian firm, the document seen by Reuters said. “Agricultural concessions will also be open to foreigners,” the government said in the document on the initiative.The document did not give details about what areas of farmland would be offered or say how concessions would be granted. Algeria, a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has been encouraging farmers with incentives such as low interest loans in a bid cut the state’s $50 billion annual bill for food and other imports.
The government relies on oil exports for about 60 percent of its revenues, which are only now starting to recover after a crash in crude prices from above $100 a barrel in 2014 to below $30 in 2016. Foreign investors have long complained about bureaucratic red tape and other hurdles to investment in Algeria. In 2010, Algeria approved a law allowing private firms to lease state-owned farmland for 40 years. The private firms were allowed to enter partnerships with foreigners, but the foreign investors were not allowed to directly hold a concession. That initiative failed to provide a major agricultural boost. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said this year that 3 million hectares from that scheme were still undeveloped and he promised more steps to improve the situation. Algeria, one of the world’s largest grain importers, bought 8.4 million tonnes of cereals in 2017 at a cost of $1.7 billion.The government aims to boost wheat output to 5.3 million tonnes by 2022 from 3.5 million tonnes in 2017.