French agricultural circles fear about the officialization of the Algerian decision to import wheat from Russia and other countries of the Black Sea after France was the first exporter of wheat to Algeria for decades.
Algeria informed European traders to amend the conditions for purchasing this material from the international market to allow the purchase of wheat produced in the Black Sea countries.
In the context, Reuters quoted European traders, on Friday, as saying that Algeria’s state grains agency OAIC has told traders it will relax specifications for bug (insect) damage in wheat effectively permitting Black Sea region wheat to be offered in tenders for higher protein grades.
According to the same source, traders added they have received changed tender terms in a document from OAIC saying the agency will increase its tolerance level for 12.5% protein wheat to 0.5% bug (insect) damage in purchase tenders.
Algeria’s bug damage standards for 11% protein wheat will remain at 0.1%, a level which Russian and other Black Sea supplies cannot usually meet.
In the same context, Radio France Internationale reported that French wheat is threatened to lose its first place in Algeria’s imports after adjusting the terms of importing it, which allows bringing wheat produced in the Black (Russia).
According to the same source, Algeria will include the new provisions for importing wheat directly in the upcoming tenders, which means that this material can be imported from Russia and not from France.
Radio France Internationale described the “Algerian measures for the tenders to buy wheat from the international market as a real revolution in the procurement procedures, and it is a direct threat to French wheat, which was imported to Algeria in large quantities since decades.
Algeria’s imports of wheat usually represent a third of France’s exports outside Europe.
What reinforces these threats to French wheat exported to Algeria, according to Radio France Internationale, is that French exports of wheat to Algeria have declined by half during the current year, indicating that Algeria’s imports of French wheat this year could move from 5 million tons in the last harvest campaign too less than 2 million tons in the currently ongoing harvest campaign.
The Miller Magazine quoted the Russia authorities as saying that the Russian wheat exporters want to register with the Algerian authorities by the end of the year to start a process aimed at securing access to a market now dominated by France.
Russia also recently hosted a tour of Algerian officials and plans to send a trial shipment of wheat to Algeria soon, the agricultural agency Rosselkhoznadzor told.
Several Russian firms interested in exporting to Algeria planned to register with Algeria’s watchdog so they could submit samples for analysis, Yulia Melano, a spokeswoman for Russia agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, told Reuters.
Once registered, the firms would then send grain samples to the Algerian authorities for analysis, she said, adding that registration was expected to be completed before the end of 2018 and samples might also be sent by then.
“We hope that our Algerian colleagues will discuss this issue with their watchdog and that it will make a decision,” Melano said. But she said could “not guarantee so far that there will be a decision” to approve for Russian suppliers to bid.
Algeria effectively bars Russian wheat due to a strict limit on bug damage in grain, making it one of the few import markets not to have seen a rise inflows from Russia, the world’s largest wheat supplier. To allow imports of Russian wheat, Algeria would need to increase the maximum permitted bug damage to around 0.5% from 0.1%, several traders said.
Algeria, with a population of 41 million, imported 8.2 million tonnes of wheat in 2017 and 8.4 million tonnes the previous year. This year, it expects to buy 7.2 million tonnes after recording its largest harvest in five decades.
France To Send A DelegationTo Algiers
If cheaper Russian wheat is successful at gaining more access to Algeria, the world’s third-largest wheat importer, farmers in Europe, especially France, could lose out, the Miller Magazine website said.
“Given Russian lobbying to enter the Algerian market, France, top wheat supplier to Algeria, will send a delegation to North African country early next year to discuss grain sales, an official said. French wheat producers fear their dominant position in Algeria’s market could be challenged as Russia is seeking to gain access to the North African country’s import tenders.”
“Following a promise to the grain industry last month to organise a trip to Algeria, French junior trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne asked export promotion agency Business France to prepare a visit for the first half of 2019, an official at the minister’s office said. The visit would be preferably in the first quarter, the official said.”
Algeria in recent years has accounted for around half of the French soft wheat exports outside the European Union, and the share has been even greater so far in the 2018/19 season at about 80%. France has exported 1.75 million tonnes of wheat to Algeria since the start of the 2018/2019 season on July 1, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.