TUNIS, TUNISIA — Algeria plans to sharply reduce its wheat imports as it attempts to rein in its costly subsidized bread program as protests grow against the ruling elite, Reuters reported on Nov. 21.

The government, in a statement released on Nov. 20, said it will cap soft wheat imports at 4 million tonnes per year, down from 6.2 million tonnes in the latest marking year.

The statement said the move, which will take place immediately, was designed to “preserve foreign currency and reduce Algerian imports of cereal, especially soft wheat.”

The country most impacted by this decision will be France, which has been the primary source of Algeria’s soft wheat imports.

Algeria spent about $3 billion on wheat imports last year, including durum wheat, flour and semolina.

In 2018-19, Algeria was the world’s fourth largest wheat importer at 7.5 million tonnes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Mass protests this year, which led to the departure of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, have prompted the interim government to target corruption.

In July, the Algerian government removed the head of the state grains agency (OAIC) after a corruption investigation and has closed some of the country’s 500 flour mills, according to Reuters. So far, 45 mills have been closed and more than 300 others are under investigation, an agriculture ministry source told Reuters.