Algeria lifts drought alerts for grain areas


Algeria’s agriculture ministry yesterday lifted drought warnings for the country’s main grain-growing areas after rain fell for the first time in weeks.

The past week saw rainfall in the provinces of Tiaret, with 26 (millimetres) mm, Setif with 31 mm, and Bordj Bou Arreridj with 39 mm, according to the ministry’s weekly weather update, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

The ministry update lifted drought warnings for the provinces of Tlemcen, Saida, Chlef, Medea and Batna. It did not mention a drought warning imposed at the end of March for the Setif region, another big grain-growing area.

The period covered in the update is April 17 to 23. Since then heavy rain has continued to fall in many parts of the country.

Algeria is the world’s seventh biggest importer of grain, with imports last year of 5.232 million tonnes, government customs data showed.

Its grain imports fluctuate according to the size of its domestic harvest, which reached a record 6.1 million tonnes in 2009 but fell back to 4.56 million tonnes last year because of bad weather.

In late March and early April, the government issued drought warnings for most of the main grain-growing regions and said the absence of rain was stressing cereal crops during a period when moisture is essential for the wheat plants to mature properly.

Algerian Agriculture Minister Rachid Benaissa said last week that the drought since the end of March would hit grain yields, but that durum wheat output would be good.