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Private sector puts new opportunities on a plate

Article - June 28, 2012
Algerian entrepreneurism is reflected in the country's leading food producer which is also looking to enter the hotel and tourism sectors
Earlier this year, a trade delegation from the US that included seven wheat producers visited El Fedjoudj Commune in Guelma Province. Its mission was to exchange ideas and experiences with Algerian producers and seek out opportunities for partnerships between the two countries.

During the visit, the US wheat growers delegation held talks with representatives of the Benamor Group, a leader in Algerian agro-industry and part of an association that is driving forward improvements in wheat quality. The visit came just a few months after US Ambassador to Algeria Henry Ensher had also visited the Benamor Group at the same location.

According to Laid Benamor, General Manager of the Benamor Group and President of the Wheat Quality Improvement Network, the February meeting helped to open discussions on “serious prospects for Algerian-American relations in the area of wheat production and marketing for the great benefit of such an important sector of food production in Algeria.”

The Benamor Group was founded in 1984 and is a leading producer of a variety of foodstuffs, such as tomato paste, jams and preserves, durum wheat pastas and couscous. It is also involved in food canning. It has an annual turnover approaching 20 billion dinar (£164  million) and employs more than 1,000 people.

“We have a project to build a large mill that will allow us to triple what we presently produce,” says Mr Benamor. “Likewise, we will be expanding our production of pasta and couscous, due to the astronomical storage capacity compared to what we have now.
“Still sticking to the agri-food sector, we want to expand into new areas like producing biscuits – which is something we have never done before. We will try to keep the same line, process and product quality, different from what you can find on the market. The only sector we have not yet explored is livestock agriculture.”

In Europe and the US, the company’s products are extremely popular with the Diaspora looking for a taste of home. Mr Benamor says, “In the case of France, for example, Algerian and North African migrants are the foremost couscous consumers. Today, and since we started exporting two years ago, they are proud to have high quality Algerian products. Although people always believe that couscous is a Moroccan product, it is actually a North African one, which also comes from Algeria and Tunisia.”

Beyond agriculture, the company has also invested in Algeria’s real estate business and is representative of Algeria’s private-sector entrepreneurism that is beginning to gain a higher profile.

Mr Benamor is one of several prominent Algerian businessmen increasing their involvement in the country’s long-overlooked hotel and tourism sectors. With a view to diversifying the company’s interests, he is on the lookout for specialists in the construction, interior design and hotel furnishing trades to help him develop a 2,000-bed resort near El Tarf on the Tunisian border.

The Benamor Group also reflects an increasing trend in Algeria’s private sector to improve corporate social responsibility. “We have a lot of projects and want to help citizens. The first step is to create more and more employment; we focus on this above doubling our revenue. It is our priority,” says Mr Benamor. “By doubling employment we are at the same time trying to maintain a solid purchasing power.”