CANNABIS CULTURE – Earning stacks of money growing weed in Algeria is not as easy as it used to be. The era when Algerian farmers could sell tons of heavily seeded, poor quality cannabis has largely disappeared.
The main local and European export markets demand much better product these days. And then there are the age old challenges of evading or bribing law enforcement agencies. And of course, the local criminal gangs that thrive in cannabis crop thieving.
Seed Stocker is one European weed merchant that sell feminized auto flower and photo-period cannabis seeds in quantities from 1 seed to 20 000 to North Africa farmers. Recently they have been selling quite a few seeds to Algeria farmers who have stepped up their efforts to match European cannabis quality levels. We were invited to accompany one of their customers, Jahri (40), to rural Algeria to see what it´s like growing ganja for a living.
Jahri described the biggest challenges in getting a crop safely through to harvest.
“Usually cannabis varieties are ready around the end of September. Without water everything dies in the hills during the summer, but with water the best European varities reach 2-3 meters tall. A field of them is easy to see. The policeman sometimes come and check during September, but they have limited for small farmers like me. A bribe is always a possibility, but better still is the chance to harvest before the police visit. Autos are perfect for this. The bigger problem is the local bandits that roam the hills at night in September looking for plantations. If your field are not guarded with men and dogs, a gang of them can strip a field in one night.”
Algeria weed quality issues
Algeria weed used to be smuggled into Europe in massive quantities, either by boat or vehicle/ferry, but since European markets have become accustomed to high quality locally grown weed, demand for Algeria weed has dwindled significantly. This is largely due to lower standards of outdoor Algeria grown cannabis compared to more professionally grown European ganja. In order for an Algerian weed farmer to make a good living from weed they need to take their quality levels up significantly. That means no more heavily seeded crops, and improved seed genetics.
Growing better cannabis
The progressive Algerian farmers buy their seeds in Europe rather than on the local African market where quality standards can be minimal. Local Algeria cannabis seed is usually saved from the previous year´s crop, but with no focus on breeding/genetics the quality levels are poor/medium at best. Seed stockers sell feminized seeds in bulk, with some customers buying several thousand seeds at a time. Starting with better quality seeds is just half the story, growing conditions also need to be optimized.
Improving soil quality and water delivery in the Algeria hills,
Soil tends to be sandy and low in mineral content in the hills of Algeria. But few farmers can afford to buy new top soil. The smart farmers can afford to buy new top soil. The smart farmer works out how to improve soil quality for minimum cost. Jahri´s team use a drilling device called auger to drill a plant hole around 50cm wide and a meter deep.
Jahri explained the benefits of growing auto flower seeds, he is now in his second year growing Seed Stockers auto flower seeds. “We germinate the seeds and keep them inside for a week under fluorescent tubes until they are strong. While this happens, my boys in the field drill holes for each plant. Fertilizer pellets are added to each hole along with the original soil. The hole is soaked with water the same day that the seed is being planted. Water is supplied each day by normal feeding hose. The plants take 3 months before they are ready, with the old varities it took 6 months.”
Many of the younger Algerians have visited nearby Spain, and its enviable collection of Cannabis Social Clubs and the quality of the best Barcelona Social Club weed is tough to beat. Many returning Algerian cannabis lovers knew that the quality benchmark in Europe has been moved up a level. That forced the Algerian Cannabis farmers to find cheap ways to improve the soil quality/fertility and many of them bulk-purchased cannabis seeds from European suppliers. Quality feminized seeds cost around a Euro per seed when bought by thousands from bulk supplies like Seed Stockers.
Jahri explained more about his quality approach.
“The harvest quality is far higher than our fathers could manage to grow – these really sweet sticky buds. There is no need to make hash from this as the quality is there to begin with. The locals love my weed. We harvest auto flower seeds in July. The thieves are not yet even out in the fields at this time. I could run two or three harvests each year. But with one crop I feel safe – we are not pushing our luck too much. Each crop takes three months from planting the seedlings to harvest. I have my products on the market before the police even come round asking for their money. The local thieves are busy looking for fields of tall plants from September onwards, no-one gives a second glance at my field of short autos in May or June. In Algeria, auto flowers are still not yet so well known by the thieves and their dear brothers in the Police.”
One way around the quality conundrum for the producers of low quality Algeria brick weed has always been to make hash from it. And indeed that remains the way many of them operate. But with poor base genetics and inefficient hash making techniques, the hash makers of Algeria now earn less per acre than the modern farmers specializing in growing quality buds.
Recently, talk has flourished about the idea of Algeria becoming a regional hub for a large scale cannabis production. The climate is perfect, the valley soil is fertile and the region has a long heritage of cannabis farming and, with some assistance from modern farming technology, alongside quality genetics, there is no reason why Algeria couldn’t become synonymous with premium quality produce once again.