Oil and Gas

UPDATE 2-Algeria replaces broad import ban with duties up to 200 pct

* Broad import ban cut imports by less than 1 pct

* Domestic manufacturers struggle to replace imports

* Duties will make ordinary Algerians poorer - analyst (Adds details on duty percentage, paragraphs 14, 15, 16)

ALGIERS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Algeria has eased a broad ban on imports and replaced it with customs duties ranging from 30 to 200 percent, the Trade Ministry said on Tuesday, after last year’s ban had little effect in reducing the import bill.

Under the new policy, Algeria is lifting the ban imposed in 2018 on cell phones, home appliances, raw materials, some foodstuffs and other products, the ministry said on its website.

Imports of cars and some other products are still banned.

“The goods and products, which were suspended during the year 2018, are free for import from now on,” the ministry said, adding that measure is aimed at encouraging local companies and protecting the nation’s “infant industries”.

Algeria imposed the ban to ease pressure on the state’s finances caused by lower oil and gas revenue, the main source of government revenue and 94 percent of exports. But the move had little impact because Algeria’s small manufacturing base could not produce enough substitutes.

Last year’s move to ban 851 products only lessened the import bill by 0.35 percent to $38.24 billion in the first 10 months of 2018 compared with a year before, data showed.

Analysts said the new customs duties would make ordinary Algerians feel poorer by driving up prices, rather than address the bigger problem of a poorly developed domestic industry.

“This will only affect negatively the purchasing power of citizens,” economics professor Abderrahmane Aya said.

The new customs duties now apply to a list of products such as household appliances and mobile phones.

Two private manufacturers of mobile phones have complained about falling market share caused by competition from imports.

Duties will also apply to some construction materials, such as cement, marble, ceramics and finished granite, as well as products such as aluminium, furniture and plastic products.

Foodstuffs, such as poultry and red meat, will be subject to duties. But exempted food products include frozen beef, as well as fresh, dried and canned fruits and cereal derivatives.

The ministry said more products could be added to the list.

Under the new measure, customs duties for cement will reach 200 percent. Those on cell phones, washing machines, cookers and refrigerators will stand at 60 percent, according to details published on the website of the government gazette.

Duties for air conditioners, aluminium products, carpets, furniture and ceramics are set for 60 percent.

For chocolates, juice, fruits and different vegetables the percentage will range from 30 to 120 percent.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed, editing by Larry King Editing by Ulf Laessing