A new initiative is underway in Algeria to plant 400,000 hectares of olive trees across the country by 2024.
Belaâsla M’hamed, president of the Algerian National Interprofessional Council for the Olive Sector, said the program would almost double the total amount of olive groves currently cultivated in the country, estimated at 500,000 hectares.
It is clear that climate change and all related effects have had a negative impact on agricultural production on a global scale, hence the need for us to organize ourselves more.
The announcement follows a separate Algerian government initiative to boost olive oil exports by lowering bureaucratic hurdles and providing more resources to producers and exporters. The government considers olive oil to be one of the country’s sectors with the highest development potential.
According to The data of the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), Algeria exported for 178,000 dollars (150,000 €) of virgin and extra virgin olive oil in 2019 (last year for which data are available), an increase by more than 1000 percent since 2000.
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Algeria also exports non-virgin olive oils mixed with other vegetable oils and lampante olive oil, but in much smaller quantities.
The North African country is the world’s ninth largest producer of olive oil, but around 99% of its annual production is for domestic consumption.
According to data from the International Olive Council, 2020/21 was a poor crop year, but producers still produced 89,500 tonnes. The total represents a significant drop from the 2019/20 record high of 125,500 tonnes and falls just below the five-year moving average.
Algeria is also the fourth largest producer of table olives, harvesting 309,500 tonnes in the current crop year, the second highest total in the country’s history. According to the OEC, table olive exports are worth 59,000 dollars (50,000 euros) per year.
However, M’hamed argued that the widely fragmented and traditional production methods used by most of the country’s olive growers are inefficient and prevent the sector from reaching its full potential.
“Some farmers involved in olive production extract the oil themselves, a situation which should no longer be recognized for greater efficiency of the production process and which can affect quantity and quality, ”he said. said at a meeting of the olive sector in the northern town of Aïn Defla. .
According to an analysis by Juan Vilar Strategic Consulting (which estimates that there are only 390,000 hectares of olive trees in the country instead of 500,000), around 75% of the country’s olive trees are traditionally cultivated. Many of these trees are used for subsistence agriculture, which local producers consider more economical than entering the export market.
M’hamed advocates for the sector to become more integrated and said that by doing so, olive growers would be able to reduce production costs, which are seen as one of the biggest obstacles to boosting oil exports. ‘olive.
“Currently, olive oil costs between 700 dinars (4.43 €) and 800 dinars (5.07 €) per liter, a situation that must change if we are to be competitive with exports ”, M’hamed declared.
One of the ways in which M’hamed believes the sector can reduce production costs is to modernize its olive groves, converting traditional groves into high density and very high density farms, which represent only 19% and 6 % from the whole. the country’s olive groves, respectively.
He argued that this would help reduce the costs associated with harvesting olives and lessen the impact of the trees’ natural alternating cycle.
Hadj Djaâlali, the director of the local chamber of commerce, agrees. At the meeting, he said taking these steps would double the value of the country’s olive oil exports, “ensure additional foreign currency inflows for the country. “
The additional capital could then be used to invest in the sector, preparing it for the increasingly hot and drier weather expected from climate change. According to data from Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants, around 18 percent of Algeria’s olive groves are irrigated.
This percentage is expected to increase significantly as World Bank data show that precipitation at crucial times of the olive growing season is steadily decreasing. The World Bank also predicts that average precipitation from March to May will drop 16 percent over the next 30 years.
“It is clear that climate change and all related effects have had a negative impact on agricultural production globally, hence the need for us to organize ourselves more, ”M’hamed said.