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Algeria Wheat Prospects Mixed on Early Halt to Rain, FAO Says

Algeria’s grain prospects are mixed after an early end to rain in the west of the country and average to above-average rain in central and eastern parts, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Satellite observations indicate poor vegetation conditions in western regions as of late March, while the center and east had enough moisture for growing crops most of the season, the Rome-based UN agency wrote in a report on its website today.

Algeria is Africa’s second-largest wheat importer after Egypt, according to data from the International Grains Council. Domestic production of wheat and barley fluctuates according to rainfall during the growing season.

“Timely onset of seasonal rains in November was followed by an early cessation of precipitation during December in western parts,” the FAO wrote. “Continued rains during April are important for the later stages of the crop cycle.”

The grain harvest will start from about June, the FAO wrote. Snowfall in February and cold temperatures may have reduced yield potential, though probably didn’t cause “grave damage” to crops, according to the agency.

Wheat production last year fell 11 percent to 2.75 million metric tons, while the barley crop fell 10 percent to 1.35 million tons, FAO data show. Grain imports in the year through June 2012 are estimated at 9.15 million tons, rising from 8.65 million tons last year.

“Following the reduced 2010 and 2011 harvests, cereal imports have increased,” the FAO wrote. “An estimated 6 million tons of wheat were imported in the 2011-12 marketing year, about 15 percent more than in the previous year.”

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