At the Three Watches Market, which locates at the neighborhood ofBab El Oued in downtown Algiers, a long line was seen Saturday infront of a vendor who sold potatoes at 65 Algerian dinars (about0.88 U.S. dollars) per kilogram, an attractive price compared toother vendors. This price, actually, was the lowest for the last two months. Although the harvest season has come, the price of potatoes, amajor dish for Algerians, has exceeded 100 Algerian dinars (1.35dollars) per kilogram, while it was only 45 Algerian dinars (0.6dollars) in February.
Potatoes have become more like a “luxury,” inaccessiblefor common people. The government blames last winter”s heavy snow and trafficjams of hampering farmers to harvest crops and bring out stockedproducts. “Don”t forget, Algeria has witnessed a heavy wave offreeze and torrential rains that hampered several areas, preventedfarmers from reaching their fields and affected the ability totransport farm products to the market,” Algeria”sMinister of Agriculture Rachid Benaissa recently said at theparliament. In February, Algeria was hit by an unprecedented wave of freezewhich caused human casualties and considerable material losses,pushing the prices of vegetables, fruits and heater gas soaring.
Local operators and experts said some traders bought largequantities of potatoes from farmers, stored them and await pricesto hike before supplying them to the market, which aggravated thescarcity of potatoes. “Speculators tend to store potatoes, taking advantage of thelack of competent authorities” control,” head of Unionfor Algerian Free Farmers Salah Gaid said in a statement carried bylocal El Khabar newspaper. The move that aggravated the scarcity of potatoes was also meant topress the government to lift ban on the import of potatoes, justlike what happened in previous seasons, when operators werepermitted to supply the market with imported potatoes, according toGaid. Besides, the lack of potato supplies is related to the absence offertilizers in the cultivation process, due to thegovernment”s counterterrorism efforts, some experts said. Jewelry Drawstring Pouch
Three years ago, the Union for Algerian Farmers revealed that aspart of counterterrorism efforts, authorities have prohibited theuse of certain fertilizers in the cultivation of potatoes, fearingthat the materials would fall in the hand of terrorist groups tomake explosives. In a suicide attack that targeted the government building inAlgiers in April 2007, detectives concluded that the explosivesused contained fertilizer substances which militants had robbedfrom farmers. The reduced supply of fertilizers to farmers has made the landbecome less fertile and less productive. According to a report of the Customs” National StatisticOffice (ONS), the inflation rate in Algeria was 5.3 percent inFebruary, comparing to 4.9 percent in January; and the consumerprice index in February hiked by 9.34 percent, compared with thesame period of 2011, an increase mainly due to the 19.27 percentsoaring of the cost of agriculture products. Jewelry Drawstring Pouch
The report indicated that the prices of the majority of freshfoodstuffs hit considerable increase, including potatoes that hit a46.73 percent hike, eggs 26.7 percent, vegetables 16.01 percent andfruits 7.26 percent. Industrial foodstuffs prices experienced 5.67percent hike, due to the 4.19 percent increase in sugar prices. One of the repercussions of soaring prices is on the parliamentaryelection slated for May 10, which Algerian President AbdelazizBouteflika described as “crucial for the history of thecountry.” Asked about whether he would vote in the upcoming parliamentaryelection, Said, a young man who was waiting to buy potatoes in theThree Watches market, said: “Nobody cares about us. Nobodycares about our suffering. Cotton Drawstring Pouch
And they want us to vote! I won”tgive my voice to anyone!” To ease the potato scarcity, Algerian Minister of AgricultureRachid Benaissa said the stored potatoes would be brought out, andprices would gradually drop within a couple of weeks. Benaissa added that Algeria is expected to handle the production ofpotato seeds within the coming three or four years, and ultimatelyreach independency in that aspect, thanks to four specialized labs. Coast Week – 06, Apr 2012.