Algeria is planning to open up its market to imports of Russian wheat, a French exporters’ group said recently, a long-anticipated move that could shake up competition in one of the world’s largest consumers of the grain.
The country is changing its import terms to allow the shipment of wheat of Black Sea origin, including Russian and Ukrainian grain, the group said.
Moscow has been lobbying for access to Algeria’s market, one of the few major importers to which it has no access, which is currently dominated by French supply.
Algiers, meanwhile, has been seeking to reduce its costly import program as it faces popular protests and declining oil revenues.
“We are expecting a change to Algeria’s terms for the next wheat tender that should open up this destination to Black Sea origins,” Thierry de Boussac, a trader and representative of French grain exporters’ group Synacomex told reporters.
“This has been approved by the Algerian government, but I don’t know the details,” he added during a news conference organized by farm office FranceAgriMer.
While details of the changes have not been published, the limit on bug damage is expected to be increased from 0.1 per cent to 0.5 per cent for certain origins, and the protein requirement to be raised for such origins, he said.
Algeria’s grains agency OAIC, which runs the country’s wheat import tenders, could not immediately be reached for comment.
After securing access to Saudi Arabia’s wheat market through a similar change in insect damage rules, Russia has pushed for entry into Algeria by sending sample shipments.
While Russian wheat is not banned in Algeria, the strict insect damage limit has effectively ruled it out, along with fellow Black Sea wheat exporter Ukraine.
France is Algeria’s main wheat supplier, although a much smaller harvest this year is expected to sharply reduce French sales to the North African country.
France was expected to ship between 1.5 million and 2.5 million tonnes of wheat to Algeria this season, down from at least five million tonnes in previous years, de Boussac said.
Despite this year’s harvest setback, French wheat should remain the leading source of supply to Algeria going forward, Synacomex’s de Boussac said.
However, that would still be well below France’s market share in certain seasons.
“If the Synacomex statement is correct, it’s a bad day for French wheat,” said Noel Fryer, grain analyst and publisher of Fryers Reports.