As the current grape festival is completed, Algeria is going ahead with its plan to tear up 40 per cent of its vineyards.
As the current grape festival is completed, Algeria is going ahead with its plan to tear up 40 per cent of its vineyards. The aim is to replace the vines with crops and plantations of greater benefit to a Muslim country.
On independence, Algeria inherited some 900,000 acres (360,000 hectares) of vines producing some 18 million hectolitres of wine. Though home consumption of wine negligible, exports of wine to France brought in revenues second only to those from oil and gas.
In 1967-8, France cancelled its undertaking to buy 4 million hectolitres of Algerian wine, under pressure from its own wine - growers. Despite a Soviet undertaking to buy five million hectolitres and build a brandy distillery. Algerian growers were left with unsaleable surpluses.
This film shot by Louis Giminez, show a typical estate which is being torn up. Like most, it will be switched to cereal cultivation for a year, and then prepared for its eventual use, in this case as a fruit-tree plantation.
SYNOPSIS: In Algeria the wine harvest is in full swing, and with it the Government-backed campaign to tear up 40 per cent of the country's vineyards. Here at El Djemouria estate, 22 miles east of Algiers, the men are picking the wine grapes for the last time. Of the 750 acres formerly under vines, only 50 will remain for the production of table-grapes. The other 700 acres will be sown with cereals for one season, and then the bulk of the estate will be planted with fruit trees. It's not an easy change - the estate employs 500 men, 130 of them full-time. In Algeria, unemployment is high.
But the Algerian Government is determined to root out a large part of this vestige of colonial days. As a Muslim country, Algeria consumes little of its own wine. In the early days of independence, when France was still buying the bulk of the 18 million hectolitres Algeria produced, the vineyards were second only to the oilfields as earners of foreign exchange. But in 1967 France cancelled its undertakings to buy Algerian wine, and a Soviet guarantee to buy 5 million hectolitres - at half the French price - and to build a brandy distillery, was not enough. Algerian growers found themselves with unsaleable surpluses.
Wherever the vines have been uprooted, the first stage is to plough the ground for cereals. Then the final decision will be taken on a permanent new use for the land. The vine roots will help keep Algerians warm through the winter.