`In Bid to Boost Exports, Algeria Plants Millions of Olive Trees - Olive Oil Times

In Bid to Boost Exports, Algeria Plants Millions of Olive Trees

Apr. 14, 2021
Daniel Dawson

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A new ini­tia­tive is under­way in Algeria to plant 400,000 hectares of olive trees across the coun­try by 2024.

Belaâsla M’hamed, the pres­i­dent of Algeria’s National Interprofessional Council for the Olive Sector, said the pro­gram will almost dou­ble the total amount of olive groves cur­rently grown in the coun­try, esti­mated to be 500,000 hectares.

It is clear that cli­mate change and all the related effects have neg­a­tively affected agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion on a plan­e­tary scale, hence the need for us to orga­nize our­selves more- Belaâsla M’hamed, Interprofessional Council for the Olive Sector

The announce­ment comes on the heels of a sep­a­rate ini­tia­tive from the Algerian gov­ern­ment to stim­u­late olive oil exports by low­er­ing bureau­cratic hur­dles and pro­vid­ing more resources to pro­duc­ers and exporters. The gov­ern­ment sees olive oil as one of the sec­tors in the coun­try with the high­est devel­op­ment poten­tial.

According to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), Algeria exported $178,000 (€150,000) worth of vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil in 2019 (the last year for which data are avail­able), an increase of more than 1,000 per­cent since 2000.

See Also: Tunisia Works With Producers to Add Value to Branded Exports

Algeria also exports non-vir­gin olive oils blended with other veg­etable oils and lam­pante olive oil, but in far lower quan­ti­ties.

The North African coun­try is the ninth-largest olive oil pro­ducer glob­ally, but about 99 per­cent of its annual pro­duc­tion is des­tined for domes­tic con­sump­tion.

According to data from the International Olive Council, 2020/21 was a poor crop year, but pro­duc­ers still yielded 89,500 tons. The total rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant dip from the record-high 125,500 tons of 2019/20 and falls just below the rolling five-year aver­age.

Algeria is also the fourth-largest pro­ducer of table olives, har­vest­ing 309,500 tons in the cur­rent crop year, the sec­ond-high­est total in the nation’s his­tory. According to the OEC, table olive exports are worth $59,000 (€50,000) per annum.

However, M’hamed argued that the largely frag­mented and tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion meth­ods used by most of the country’s olive farm­ers are inef­fi­cient and hold the sec­tor back from reach­ing its full poten­tial.

Some farm­ers versed in olive pro­duc­tion extract the oil them­selves, a sit­u­a­tion which should no longer be rec­og­nized for greater effi­ciency of the pro­duc­tion process and which may affect quan­tity and qual­ity,” he told a meet­ing of the olive sec­tor in the north­ern city of Aïn Defla.

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Traditional basin irrigation in Algerian olive groves. Photo: Nabil Kherbache.

According to an analy­sis from Juan Vilar Strategic Consulting (which esti­mates that there are only 390,000 hectares of olive groves in the coun­try instead of 500,000), about 75 per­cent of the country’s olive trees are tra­di­tion­ally grown. Many of these trees are used for sub­sis­tence farm­ing, which local grow­ers see as more eco­nom­i­cal than enter­ing the export mar­ket.

M’hamed is advo­cat­ing for the sec­tor to become more inte­grated and said that in so doing, olive farm­ers would be able to drive down pro­duc­tion costs, which are viewed as one of the biggest hur­dles for stim­u­lat­ing olive oil exports.

Currently, olive oil costs between 700 dinars (€4.43) and 800 dinars (€5.07) per liter, a sit­u­a­tion that must change if we want to be com­pet­i­tive with regard to exports,” M’hamed said.

One of the ways in which M’hamed believes the sec­tor can drive down pro­duc­tion costs is to mod­ern­ize its olive groves, con­vert­ing tra­di­tional groves to high-den­sity and super-high-den­sity farms, which only make up 19 per­cent and six per­cent of all the country’s olive groves, respec­tively.

He argued that this would help drive down costs asso­ci­ated with har­vest­ing olives and mit­i­gate the impact of the trees’ nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle.

Hadj Djaâlali, the direc­tor for the local cham­ber of com­merce, agrees. At the meet­ing, he said that tak­ing these steps would dou­ble the value of the country’s olive oil exports, ensur­ing addi­tional inflows in for­eign cur­rency for the coun­try.”

The addi­tional cap­i­tal could then be used to invest in the sec­tor, prepar­ing it for the increas­ingly hot and dry weather expected as a result of cli­mate change. According to data from Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants, about 18 per­cent of Algeria’s olive groves are irri­gated.

This per­cent­age would need to increase dra­mat­i­cally as data from the World Bank demon­strate that rain­fall at cru­cial moments in the olive grow­ing sea­son is steadily decreas­ing. The World Bank also pre­dicts that aver­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion from March to May will fall by 16 per­cent over the next 30 years.

It is clear that cli­mate change and all the related effects have neg­a­tively affected agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion on a plan­e­tary scale, hence the need for us to orga­nize our­selves more,” M’hamed said.





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