About 15% of Algeria's workers are engaged in farming; agriculture contributes less to the country's GDP than either mining or manufacturing. The state plays a leading role in planning the economy and owns many important industrial concerns, including the mining and financial sectors. Since the late 1990s, there has been some privatization and openness to foreign investment.
Farming is concentrated in the fertile valleys and basins of the north and in the oases of the Sahara. The principal crops are wheat, barley, oats, wine grapes, olives, citrus, figs, and dates. Algeria is also an important producer of cork. Large numbers of sheep, poultry, goats, and cattle are raised, and there is a small fishing industry.
Petroleum and natural gas, found principally in the E Sahara, are Algeria's most important mineral resources and its leading exports. Production was decreased in the 1980s in order to delay the depletion of resources but rose again in the late 1990s. There are oil pipelines to the seaports of Arzew and Bejaïa in Algeria and As Sukhayrah in Tunisia. In 1993, a gas pipeline was laid between Hassi R'Mel (Algeria's main gas producing field) and Seville, Spain. Other minerals extracted in significant quantities include iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, and zinc. The country's leading industries include food and beverage processing, (notably olive oil and wine), petrochemicals, and light manufacturing. Algeria's limited rail and road networks serve mainly the northern region.
In recent years the annual earnings from Algeria's exports have been substantially higher than the cost of its imports. The chief imports are machinery, food and beverages, and consumer goods. The principal exports besides petroleum and natural gas are wine and agricultural goods (especially fruit). Algeria's main trade partners are France, the United States, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Since independence, there has been large-scale emigration to France by Algerian job seekers, who contribute substantial cash remittances to the country's economy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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