Reuters | 2 September 2010
Algiers -- Algeria's government is considering applications from firms in Europe, the Gulf and Canada to launch the country's first commercial maize production, the head of the Algerian farmers' union said.
The foreign firms seeking to invest in maize cultivation projects are from France, Italy, Spain, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, farmers' union chief Mohamed Alioui told Reuters in an interview.
'The projects can be carried out if they (the investors) have real intentions to work with us,' he said. 'Their applications are under consideration ... Agricultural land is open to investment. We will be able to produce maize for the first time, God willing,' he said. He did not name the firms that had submitted applications.
In Algeria maize is grown only by subsistence farmers, with smallholders sometimes selling surplus crops on roadsides to passing motorists. If foreign firms are allowed to invest it would be an unusual step for Algeria, which since it won independence from France in 1962 has resisted foreign involvement in its farming sector.
Foreign firms are unlikely to be able to own or lease land to cultivate maize -- or any other crop -- because a law adopted earlier this year imposed restrictions on foreign investment in farmland.
Oil and gas exporter Algeria has a population of 35 million people and imports most of the food it consumes. It is the world's fifth biggest importer of wheat.
The government of the Opec member country has in the past few years introduced a gradual reform of the agriculture sector to try to boost domestic production.
'We have no choice but to continue developing agriculture. we must produce our food ourselves,' said Alioui.Saudi Arabia's agriculture minister said this year investors from his country had expressed an interest in Algeria's farming industry.