In contrast to the forbidding presence of the Sahara where temperatures can reach 55 degrees centigrade during summertime, Algeria enjoys some rich agricultural lands particularly in the Tell Atlas Mountains where the Mediterranean climate and high rainfall helps sustain the cultivation of olives, wheat, dates and the pasturing of goats and sheep. The thriving agricultural sector employs some 9.4% of the working population. Main crops include olives and tobacco.
More than 30,000 km2 of land is devoted to the cultivation of cereal grains. The Tell is the main grain-growing land where the principal cereal crops raised are wheat, barley and oats. Many varieties of vegetables and fruits are grown for export. Algerian figs, dates, olives and olive oil, esparto grass and cork are also exported. The deglet nour variety of dates is a major export product for Algeria largely destined for the European market where it is the most popular date among consumers.
The country is the world’s second largest producer of these dates after Tunisia, who combined produce 90% of the world’s total. The date has been described by the agriculture ministry as a “flagship product for Algerian agricultural exports”. Efforts to boost grain production have started to reap rewards, with record harvests seen in 2009 and strong yields in 2010 which have helped to reduce Algeria’s import costs and provide secure employment in rural areas. Algeria was able to return to the export market in early June 2010, when the first consignment of a 100,000-tonne order of barley for France marked its first export of the grain in more than 40 years, Oxford Business Group reported.