Interview: Abdelkader Bouazghi
How have food production and agricultural infrastructure improved in recent years?
ABDELKADER BOUAZGHI: The country has made great progress in strengthening the sector, with increased local food offerings and improved rural living conditions. National food production in 2017 almost met demands for vegetables, fruits and meat, as well as 60% of cereals and dairy produce needs. The farming sector experienced average yearly growth rates of 8% over the last decade, and today it is worth $30bn.
In regard to irrigation, development of the hydro-agriculture plan extended its cover to 1.3m ha, and our short-term objective is to reach 2m ha by 2019. Additionally, the government rolled out low-consumption water systems covering 639,000 ha of land.
What are the main projects in development with foreign partners, and what can be expected?
BOUAZGHI: Modernising the sector and promoting private investment are part of Algeria’s strategy, and many measures have already been put into place, including a dedicated central cell to support projects until their implementation and a joint ministerial committee in charge of evaluating target investments in machinery.
There are seven mega-projects underway, with US and Irish partners working on areas of over 5000 ha in the wilayas (provinces) of El Bayadh, Adrar, Ghardaïa and Khenchela. These projects will increase capacity of cereals, arboriculture, cattle rearing and dairy produce, and boost investment opportunities.
The government is also looking to strengthen its relations with project holders by providing technical assistance when needed. The main objectives are to increase production to support food self-sufficiency and boost exportation, while creating jobs and contributing to the development of remote rural zones. The goal is to create 1.5m jobs, assigning 80,000 of those to the fisheries and aquaculture segments. By 2020 Algeria hopes to reach its target of $1.1bn in exports.
How will ongoing development projects impact the fisheries and aquaculture segments?
BOUAZGHI: The Aquapêche programme, led by the ministry, has two main objectives: preserving halieutic resources by maintaining the current level of production at an average of 100,000 tonnes per year; and developing both marine and continental aquaculture to reach production of 100,000 tonnes per year. A total of 38 aquaculture projects were conducted in 2016, and a further 51 were realised in 2017, bringing annual production to 58,000 tonnes.
Another important project is the extension of fisheries infrastructure. 2017 was a good year for the production of alevin, which colonise continental structures and basin irrigation systems. Altogether, 3m young fish were bred, including species such as carp, black bass, pike perch and tilapia. Aquaculture specialists also learned to breed shrimps, a brand new product for our country. As for coral exploitation, the necessary legal framework has been finalised, and the market will soon be open to investors. By 2019 Algeria is expected to produce 200,000 tonnes of aquaculture products per year and see an increase in exportations.
What areas of agriculture will be the main concern for the government in the coming years?
BOUAZGHI: We will focus on areas of production such as milk, cereals, dry vegetables, fodder, red and white meat, fruits, dates and aquaculture. We are already working on reducing fallow lands, increasing quality of local produce, selecting products for export and modernising existing infrastructure. The ministry will look to strengthen the regulatory framework, boost crop production programmes, modernise the sanitary and phytosanitary systems, and promote public-private partnerships. We also aim to develop forest patrimony through exploitation of rustic trees such as almond and pistachio, increase production of wood to 200,000 cu metres per year and improve forestation rate up to 13%.
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