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Algeria’s agricultural sector, which contributes about eight percent of gross domestic product (GDP) but employs fourteen percent of the workforce, is unable to meet the food needs of the country's population. As a result, some forty-five percent of its food is imported. The primary crops are wheat, barley and potatoes. Farmers also have had success growing dates for export. Cultivation is concentrated in the fertile coastal plain of the Tell Atlas region, which represents just a slice of Algeria's total territory. Altogether, only about three percent of Algerian territory is arable. Even in the Tell, rainfall variability has a significant impact on production. Government efforts to stimulate farming in the less-arable steppe and desert regions have met with limited success. However, herdsmen maintain livestock, specifically goats, cattle, and sheep, in the High Plateaus region.
Since Roman times Algeria has been noted for the fertility of its soil. About fourteen percent of the inhabitants are engaged in agricultural pursuits. More than 7,500,000 acres (30,000 km²) are devoted to the cultivation of cereal grains. The Tell is the grain-growing land. During the time of French rule its productivity was increased substantially by the sinking of artesian wells in districts which only required water to make them fertile. Of the crops raised, wheat, barley and oats are the principal cereals. A great variety of vegetables and of fruit]s, especially citrus products, is exported.
A considerable amount of cotton was grown during the early 1860s because of the American Civil War in the United States, but the industry declined afterwards. In the early years of the 20th century efforts to extend the cultivation of the plant were renewed. A small amount of cotton is also grown in the southern oases. Large quantities of crin vegetal (vegetable horse-hair), an excellent fibre, are made from the leaves of the dwarf palm. The olive, both for its fruit and oil, and tobacco are cultivated with great success.
Throughout Algeria the soil favours the growth of vines. The country, in the words of an expert sent to report on the subject by the French government, "can produce an infinite variety of wines suitable to every constitution and to every caprice of taste".
The growing of vines was undertaken early by the colonists, but it was not until vineyards in France were attacked by phylloxera that the export of wine from Algeria became significant. In 1883, despite precautionary measures, Algerian vineyards were also attacked but in the meantime the quality of their wines had been proved. In 1850, less than 2,000 acres (8 km²) were devoted to the grape, but in 1878, this had increased to over 42,000 acres (170 km²), which yielded 7,436,000 gallons (28,000 m³) of wine. Despite bad seasons and ravages of insects, cultivation extended, and in 1895, the vineyards covered 300,000 acres (1,200 km²), the produce being 88,000,000 gallons (333,000 m³). The area of cultivation in 1905 exceeded 400,000 acres (1,600 km²), and in that year the amount of wine produced was 157,000,000 gallons (594,000 m³). By that time the limits of profitable production had been reached in many parts of the country. Practically the only foreign market for Algerian wine is France, which in 1905 imported about 110,000,000 gallons (416,000 m³).
The Algerian body responsible for wine cultivation is called the National Office of Marketing of Wine Products (ONCV).
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