CAIRO: Egypt only produces 50 percent of its wheat consumption. Out of this realization, experts are debating ways to make Egypt self-sufficient when it comes to this strategic commodity.
We don t own our food. We don t own our weapons. And a country that doesn t own these things is a country that doesn t have a say in the world, said Yehya Al Gamal, president of the Democratic Front Party.
The party organized a seminar this week titled “The wheat problem in Egypt: He who doesn’t own his food, doesn t own his destiny, to discuss possible solutions for the discrepancy between wheat production and consumption.
While the participants debated a number of solutions – including changing government policies, eradicating water pollution and mechanizing the agricultural process – they also noted that it wasn’t the first time to make these suggestions.
They claim to have approached the government with the plans they devised to make Egypt self-sufficient, but only got thank you letters. Implementation wasn’t on the government agenda, the participants said.
Dr. Zakaria Haddad, professor at the Faculty of Agriculture at Banha University, said that the government had ignored all his suggestions.
I told [former PM Atef Ebeid] I don’t want you to thank me for it. I wanted you to implement it, said Haddad.
His suggestions mainly focused on mechanizing the farming process and introducing small land owners to the latest equipment. If we use machines in farming, wheat production will increase by 30 percent. They keep saying that machines will result in unemployment, but that s not true. The whole world works with machines now. It is ridiculous that farmers still do everything by hand.
“Methods for cultivation must change. We can t expect farmers who own mobile phones and satellite dishes where they can see the rest of the world to work the same way they used to before, he said.
Cooperation with the government is an integral part of the suggestions made during the seminar. Most solutions depended on changing agricultural policies.
Dr Ashraf Balbaa , member of the party’s higher council, accused the government of not providing the farmers with proper incentives to grow wheat. He described last year’s policies as “humiliating to the farmers, describing how the government promised to buy their crops but then stalled with the purchase and later with the payment.
Dr Zidan Abdel Aal, a professor at the Faculty of Agriculture at Alexandria University, said that a big part of the problem could be eliminated if we ended Nile pollution.
When countries eliminate pollution, efficiency increases from 40 to 50 percent in rivers, waterways and agricultural land. We can add to our agricultural land 3 million feddans if we do that, he said.
But he also said that specialists don t work together as one team The wheat problem has to be tackled within a national context.
During the seminar, Democratic Front Party members announced the formation of The Association of Self Sufficiency in Wheat and Strategic Crops.