Algeria bans imports of cell phones, vegetables to curb trade deficit

ALGIERS – Algeria has temporarily banned the import of 900 products, including cell phones, household appliances and vegetables, in a bid to cut a ballooning import bill following a fall in energy earnings, according to an official document seen by Reuters.

The OPEC member has been trying to cut spending since crude oil prices started falling in mid-2014. The country relies on oil and gas for 60 per cent of the state budget but earnings from the sector have halved since oil prices collapsed.

The import ban, which took effect on Sunday, also applies to furniture, all vegetables except garlic, some meats and fruits, cheeses, chocolates, pastries, pasta, juice, bottled waters and some building materials. It replaces an import licence system introduced two years ago.

“The import suspension of those products is limited in time, and will be lifted gradually with or without maintaining or increasing taxes and other duties,” the document, drawn up by the trade ministry, said. The document’s authenticity was confirmed by an official.

Under the new ban, the government hopes the import bill will fall to $30 billion this year from a projected $45 billion for all of 2017 and $46.7 billion the previous year.