By Fidet Mansour
By Fidet Mansour
Algiers, November 29, 2011
The political rapprochement between Morocco and Algeria is reaching into yet another field, this time agriculture and rural development.
In the latest indication of warming ties between Algeria and Morocco, the two Maghreb neighbors signed a series of agricultural co-operation agreements last Wednesday (November 23rd) in Algiers.
The accords covered a variety of issues ranging from beekeeping to work with the Filaha Inov Foundation, which organized the annual Algiers agricultural expo where Morocco was a guest of honor.
“The signing of these agreements marks the beginning of a co-operation process which we want to be strong,” commented Algerian Agriculture Minister Rachid Benaissa. He added that the presence of 150 high-level Moroccan business figures was a sign of “shared interest in building strong relations between our two countries”.
“We are consolidating a process that has been under way since the beginning of this year,” Benaissa said, referring to the April Morocco-Algeria agricultural accord.
In a press statement, Moroccan Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch highlighted the fact that his country’s participation in the trade fair was part of a process that the two sides have developed together. “The contact that will be made during this event will make it possible to step up exchanges with a view to feeding our region more successfully,” he added.
The experiences of the two Maghreb states was discussed in depth at the Algerian-Moroccan Forum on Agriculture, Agri-Food and Rural Development, which was held on the side-lines of the trade fair and attracted 150 Moroccan businessmen.
Algerian agriculture ministry official Sid Ahmed Ferrouckhi discussed the “Agricultural and Rural Renewal Policy” launched in 2000. The various agricultural development plans implemented as part of this policy have increased agricultural output by a factor of 4.5 to date.
“Over the 2010-2014 five-year period, Algeria will spend 3 billion dollars a year on supporting programmes to develop the agricultural and rural sector,” he said.
The main challenge for Moroccan agriculture is investment, according to conference attendees. Agriculture in Morocco is developing steadily, however.
The Green Morocco Plan, which was implemented in 2008, “is intended to make agriculture a real driving-force for growth over the next 15 years by doubling agricultural GDP, which is currently estimated at $12 billion”. Morocco also plans to increase its agricultural exports to $8 billion in 2020, experts at the forum said.
These statements drew plenty of reactions from the Algerian press. Mohamed Touati, an expert on Algerian-Moroccan relations, commented that the two sides were “demonstrating their desire to sit down at the same table to patch up their differences”. He said the attendance of 150 high-level Moroccan business figures was “a sign of the shared interest in building strong relations between our two countries”.
“A bit like ploughing that goes promisingly, the machine intended to thaw relations that have been strained for far too long has been switched on. And as long as no grains of sand cause the machine to seize up, the harvest will be fruitful indeed,” he concluded.