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Algeria says food stocks enough for months

ALGIERS, March 29 (Reuters) - Algeria has enough food to meet its needs for the next few months despite a surge in demand since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Sunday.

Algeria usually produces sufficient fruit and vegetables, but imports a large proportion of other staples, mainly grains.

After the announcement of its first coronavirus cases, Algerians rushed to buy food, including semolina and flour, in large quantities, fearing lower supplies. That caused shortages.

"Our food stocks cover demand for months," Trade Minister Kamel Rezig told reporters when asked about government plans.

An official at the state grains agency, OAIC, told Reuters additional quotas had been approved for mills.

Algeria increased soft wheat supplies to mills to 6.3 million quintals in March from 5.8 million quintals the previous month and 5.7 million quintals in January.

Durum wheat supplies for mills rose to 2.62 million quintals in March compared with 1.8 million quintals in February, the OAIC official said.

Asked whether higher supplies would negatively affect the agency's stocks and prompt it to import greater quantities, he said: "There is a strategic stock to cover the needs for several months."

State and private mills have increased working hours and are now operating at full capacity.

"We are working around the clock. We have been prompted to open new sale centres," the owner and manager of a private mill told Reuters.

Algeria’s cereals output in 2019 exceeded the 6 million tonnes it harvested the previous year.

Durum wheat production accounts for more than 50% of Algeria’s total grain output, and it imports most of its soft wheat needs from France. (Reporting By Hamid Ould Ahmed, Editing by Angus McDowall and Andrew Cawthorne)

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