Thursday, 28 July 2011

Algeria ups food imports

Algeria's customs bureau announced that total food imports for the first half of 2011 are up by 59 per cent compared to the same period in 2010. It is estimated that Algeria has imported $2.04 billion worth of cereals, flour and semolina in the first half of the year, which marks a 99 per cent increase compared to 2010 figures.

It is thought that Algeria has boosted its food imports in order to contain possible social unrest ahead of Ramadan, when food prices traditionally go up. The move is believed to guard against a popular revolt like that in neighbouring Tunisia, where a frustrated public - inspired by one man's dramatic protest - brought down an entrenched regime.

Five Algerians were killed and more than 800 injured during five days of riots in January, ignited by a rise in the cost of basic comestibles like oil and sugar. Anti-government demonstrations have continued intermittently since, with Algerians taking to the streets to demand an improvement in employment and housing.

Some believe that the government's strategic move to up food imports to subdue the Algerian population is flawed move. Head of Algerian FCE business forum Reda Hamiani, said: "Algeria lowers prices internationally, and countries like Mali, Niger Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania also profit from these subsidies through certain networks."

The policy is also "nonsensical", according to Hamiani, because it discourages domestic farmers from boosting domestic grain production, which the country desperately needs.

Sources: AFP, News24, Bloomberg

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

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