Grape production has decreased, but vineyards still flourish
in some areas.
Courtesy United States Department of Agriculture
Cutting hay; women in the foreground; men in the rear
Courtesy Nadia Benchallal and Middle East Report
Wheat and barley are Algeria's major grain crops,
representing 63 percent of all cultivated areas in 1987. In spite
of the government's longstanding objective of boosting
productivity, however, grain self-sufficiency dropped from 91
percent at independence to 18 percent in 1990. The drop resulted
from such factors as the rapidly multiplying population, erratic
climatic conditions, agricultural mismanagement, and rural
migration to urban centers. Grain production plunged 25 percent
between 1986 and 1990, but returned to a record level in 1991.
The bulk of the production was in wheat and barley (see
Appendix). Despite the comeback, Algeria continued to import 75
percent of its grain needs. The European Community was the major
supplier of barley. Corn imports also doubled between 1985 and
1990; the United States provided 75 percent of the total.
Other main crops include grapes, citrus fruits, vegetables,
olives, tobacco, and dates. In the early, 1990s Algeria was the
world's fifth largest producer of dates. About three-quarters of
the annual average of 200,000 tons are consumed locally.
Wine production, however, although it continues to be
Algeria's major agricultural export as it had been during French
occupation, has shown a steady and drastic decline. The drop has
occurred in part because of decreased demand in European markets
but also because of the government view that dependence on wine
exports was economically and politically risky as well as
possibly inappropriate for a Muslim state. France's decision to
stop importing Algerian wines in retaliation for the
nationalization of its oil assets in 1969 was cited. The
country's annual output of wine declined from 15 million
hectoliters in 1962 to 1 million hectoliters in 1988; the area
under vine cultivation dropped correspondingly from 370,000
hectares to 82,000 hectares for the same period.
In 1990 olive groves covered at least 160,000 hectares, but
unsatisfactory levels of olive oil production caused the
government in 1990 to initiate a ten-year program to rehabilitate
an additional 100,000 hectares of groves and build 200 oilpressing plants. The authorities also sought to expand tomato
cultivation in addition to other agro-industry projects. Tobacco,
however, remained the main industrial crop, producing 4,000 tons
a year and employing 13,000 workers.
Data as of December 1993