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Agricultural concessions to foreigners become a controversy



Algerian political and economic authorities, faced with an unsolvable problem situation regarding agricultural land, hesitate to cut the Gordian knot once and for all. The Algerian State, since the inheritance of the so-called self-managed domains of the post-independence period and the cooperatives of the agrarian revolution, through the model set up in 1987 for collective and individual farms, and finally the transition to the right of concession in 2010 (Law 10/03 of 15 August 2010), is still looking for new solutions. 

Algerian land laws : an old chestnut

Act No. 10/03 of 15 August 2010 provides a concise description of the conditions and procedures for the use of agricultural land in the private domain of the State. Art. 21 in particular stipulate that the agricultural holding may conclude any partnership agreement with Algerian citizens or legal entities under Algerian law, all of whose shareholders are Algerian citizens. However, with the introduction of public-private partnership (national/national) and national/foreign) models, several types of agricultural land projects have been set up, until information was received earlier this month on a probable overhaul of the agricultural concession system, as part of the LFC 2018 proposal. Nothing has officially been released about this LFC 2018's theme, but according to some national private press information, this is a first in Algerian agriculture's history, because the concession of agricultural land in the State' private domain can now be transferred to foreign citizens, within the private or public partnership. Before that, legally speaking, 

the exploitation of the State's private agricultural land was granted only to Algerian citizens up to a maximum period of 40 years, renewable in exchange for an annual fee, determined by the Finance Act. This proposal of the inter-ministerial technical council in charge of the LFC 2018 was expected to pass handily during the meeting of the Council of Ministers, which was initially scheduled for Wednesday 9 this month, it was postponed by the President of the Republic to an unknown date, according to the same sources. 

 

What about the 2018 CFL proposal to transfer the pilot farms to private companies?

According to the original text of the LFC's (Supplementary Finance Act) 2018, the initial proposal provides for the redevelopment of the agricultural land concession system. Article 3 stipulates that "the right to concession agricultural land and means of exploitation in the private domain of the State made available to pilot farms shall be transferred to investment companies created in the framework of public-private partnerships with national or foreign investors". The transfer of the concession will be done by a simple administrative act, accompanied by a contract document, issued by the estate authorities. The concession can also be revoked by the authorities if the obligations specified in the contract documents are not respected.  The texts to implement this clause will be established by law. However, it is specified that the transfer of the concession to the investment company is necessary in order to secure their investment and enable them to request credit settlements from banks. 

The LFC 2018 project's founders, in their reasons for withdrawing the right to concession of agricultural land and means of exploitation from the State's private domain to pilot farms, state that "despite the State's financial support, the pilot farms are still unable to respond, at best, to the dynamics set in motion by the agricultural development program, which aims to free up intrinsic energies and direct them towards the participation of all stakeholders in the process of exploiting existing potential to achieve the assigned objectives".

As a result, according to the LFC's authors, the reconfiguration of the pilot farm management system and the use of "the technical, financial, technological and managerial know-how and capacities of domestic and foreign investors ", 169 pilot farms, covering 146,000 hectares, under the Agricultural Groups, will be concerned by this provision once it is adopted.

 

Another disgrace for Prime Minister Ouyahia

According to a national electronic news site, the President of the Republic recently disgraced and redirected the Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on this point. Indeed, the country's chief magistrate categorically rejected the proposal concerning the opening of agricultural concessions to foreign investors. As a result, the article of the first version of LFC 2018 was simply deleted. 

Yet, which was the enigmatic reason that motivated President Bouteflika to use his prerogatives to cancel such a measure? According to some Algerian agricultural analysts, this is simply "a strategic investment on which our country's independence depends". For others, this is the intervention of a group of interested parties that consider dangerous that foreign states may monopolize Algeria's most productive agricultural land in order to make it a real "food pressure tool" for their commercial interests. 

On the nationalist side, there are also those who believe that the time has not yet come to free the agricultural land market in just one single move by opening the way to those who have qualified them as the land's neo-colonizers - a land that has witnessed more than 1.5 million Algerian Martyrs for Algeria's independence. The real solution to the problems of agricultural production in Algeria remains in the hands of those who can put their money where their mouth is.    

 

Deliberately avoided debate during national agricultural conference

However, it is difficult to imagine that such a strategic issue, which is also a matter of national sovereign authority, was deliberately eluded during the national conference on agriculture last April. In fact, the general debate on the nine workshops of the conference concluded with an overview of recommendations, the first of which concerns agricultural land, including: 

1) Continuously work to preserve and protect agricultural land in conformity with Article 19 of the Constitution.

2) Expand agricultural areas in order to increase productive land potential.

3) Necessity to continue the recovery process of uncultivated lands and their assignment under the Prefect supervision.    

4) Providing more time and flexibility in processing requests for land-access according to the system put in place by (i) creating synergy among the organizations involved in the issue and (ii) creating a single information desk.

5) Strengthen access to Saharan and steppe lands through land concessions to investors, in order to avoid the risks of natural resource degradation.

6) Improve the exploitation of agricultural areas by launching priority projects recognized as potentially profitable and by encouraging renewable energy use.

7) Reinforce the decentralized process put in place, so that it is in perfect accordance and synergy with a national integrated development strategy.

8) Need to definitively complete the operation to convert the right of use into the right of concession, and apply the terms of Act No. 10-03 of 15 August 2010 establishing the conditions and modalities of exploitation of agricultural land in the private domain of the State.

Therefore why the Algerian agricultural community was not informed of such a decision, which was almost implemented with or without its consent ?

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