Wheat and barley are Algeria's major grain crops, representing 63 percent of all cultivated areas in 1987. In spite of the government's longstanding objective of boosting productivity, however, grain self-sufficiency dropped from 91 percent at independence to 18 percent in 1990. The drop resulted from such factors as the rapidly multiplying population, erratic climatic conditions, agricultural mismanagement, and rural migration to urban centers. Grain production plunged 25 percent between 1986 and 1990, but returned to a record level in 1991. The bulk of the production was in wheat and barley. Despite the comeback, Algeria continued to import 75 percent of its grain needs. The European Community was the major supplier of barley. Corn imports also doubled between 1985 and 1990; the United States provided 75 percent of the total.
Other main crops include grapes, citrus fruits, vegetables, olives, tobacco, and dates. In the early, 1990s Algeria was the world's fifth largest producer of dates. About three-quarters of the annual average of 200,000 tons are consumed locally.
Wine production, however, although it continues to be Algeria's major agricultural export as it had been during French occupation, has shown a steady and drastic decline. The drop has occurred in part because of decreased demand in European markets but also because of the government view that dependence on wine exports was economically and politically risky as well as possibly inappropriate for a Muslim state. France's decision to stop importing Algerian wines in retaliation for the nationalization of its oil assets in 1969 was cited. The country's annual output of wine declined from 15 million hectoliters in 1962 to 1 million hectoliters in 1988; the area under vine cultivation dropped correspondingly from 370,000 hectares to 82,000 hectares for the same period.
In 1990 olive groves covered at least 160,000 hectares, but unsatisfactory levels of olive oil production caused the government in 1990 to initiate a ten-year program to rehabilitate an additional 100,000 hectares of groves and build 200 oilpressing plants. The authorities also sought to expand tomato cultivation in addition to other agro-industry projects. Tobacco, however, remained the main industrial crop, producing 4,000 tons a year and employing 13,000 workers.
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