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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) – Algeria, an important buyer of Canadian durum, plans to cut its wheat imports by at least two-thirds by 2014 and boost domestic production to fill the gap.

“We have a five-year plan to cut imports and encourage farmers to produce more wheat,” said agriculture minister Rachid Benaissa.

He expects the country to produce four million tonnes of wheat in 2009-10. Algeria is a major wheat importer, buying 1.27 million tonnes of wheat from France in July to November of last year.

It also cut its grain import bill by about 41 percent in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. The import bill for those products in the first nine months fell to $1.912 billion US from $3.235 billion last year.

Benaissa said Algeria aims to become self-sufficient in wheat by offering incentives to local farmers.

“We have implemented a plan to spend 200 billion Algerian dinars ($2.74 billion) in agricultural subsidies per year from 2009 to 2014,” he said. “Subsidizing strategic crops such as grains, milk, tomatoes and potatoes is one of our top priorities in the next five years.”


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