The ministry has reduced its forecast production of wheat, barley and maize for the full year to 21 million quintals, compared with 41 million quintals in 2007.

“The large drop is essentially due to a shortage of rainfall,” says Amar Assabah, the ministry’s director of regulation.

More than 1.7 million hectares of farmland has been hit by a drought in western Algeria.

The steep fall in production will force Algeria’s government to increase its imports of food. The cost will largely be carried by the central government budget as it subsidies the price of cereal crops.

In contrast, neighbouring Morocco has enjoyed a good harvest in 2008, compared with 2007 when a drought caused production and the country’s rate of economic growth to plunge (MEED 18:4:08).