Interview : M’hamed Metidji

How would you evaluate the previous efforts made to support the agriculture sector?

M’HAMED METIDJI: In the 2000s the authorities established a comprehensive strategy for agricultural development. The strategy focused on reducing vulnerabilities, developing assets through strong involvement of private and public players, and promoting the emergence of new governance in agriculture and rural territories. In this context the new agricultural policy integrates socio-economic, territorial and cognitive dimensions based on three guidelines: agricultural renewal; rural renewal; and investment in human capacity. Cereal producers need to consolidate their know-how and their practices. They also need to organise themselves as well as the related associations, and to work for the same objective, which should be the development of cereals. Despite uncertainties resulting from climate change, cereal production has increased steadily since 2009. This is due to the measures that have been taken in the aim of supporting the sector.

What can be done to further modernise the sector?

METIDJI: Modernisation of the sector is structured around new paradigms, which serve to put agriculture at the heart of growth and diversification of Algeria’s economy. These paradigms are highly dependent on labour improvement and soil productivity, as well as to the strength of agronomic research and innovation – two factors that will determine the future of food security in Algeria. There are many operational programmes, including research and development, promotion of public-private and private-private partnerships, and mobilisation of skills in strategic segments. Results are encouraging, however, emphasis must be placed on structural upgrades, focusing on physical and infrastructural modernisation through mechanisation, technical and scientific advances, modern farm management, and implementation of sectoral management for greater cohesion of associated efforts and activities.

Which segments have the greatest potential for development moving forward?

METIDJI: Segments with the greatest potential include those with structural deficits filled by imports, which highly impact our trade balance. Specifically, cereals, milk and meat, in addition to high value-added segments that represent good opportunities for exports and the emergence of a competitive processing industry. Considering our current consumption model, the cereals segment is essential for food security, and accounts for 59% of our total imports.

Algeria has one of the highest rates of grain consumption in the world, averaging an estimated 220 kg a year per capita. In this context, the main objective of the National Interprofessional Council for Cereals is the rehabilitation and reactivation of activities that are related to the promotion, value addition and profitability of national production.

What are some prominent challenges and advantages in the agro-industry today?

METIDJI: The authorities are focusing on building new dynamism in the agri-food industry with the private sector. In the future this sector will contribute vitally to Algeria’s strategy for food security and to supplying the national market. At 1.6m workers, the industry employs 40% of the agricultural workforce, accounting for around 55% of industrial GDP and 45% of said added value. The turnover generated by agri-food represents 40% of the total turnover of non-hydrocarbons industries. It has an export potential of over $3bn per year and is still growing steadily. The national agricultural production system could not satisfy demanded quality or quantity. It is creating dependence on external markets, and results in little integration with agricultural upstream. Therefore, the local products that are value added are negatively impacted. We need the competitiveness of the sector, and this overlooks a strong partnership between farmers and industrialists.