Egypt cut by almost half the amount of land it used to sow rice in 2010 versus the previous year, saving the country 5-6 billion cubic meters of water, the official state news agency MENA said on Thursday.
The amount of land on which rice was grown was reduced to 1.2 million feddans (1.2 million acres) from 2.2 million last year, MENA said, citing the Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Nasreddin Allam.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, wants to reduce its domestic production of the water-intensive crop.
Bread is the main staple for most Egyptians, and Egypt imports more than half its wheat needs. An official was quoted as saying this month that Egypt wanted to achieve 70 percent wheat sufficiency. But rice is still a popular staple food.
Climate change threatens a fragile farm sector in Egypt and population growth may outstrip water resources as early as 2017.
Under a 1929 agreement with the Nile Basin countries, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic meters a year, the lion’s share of the Nile’s total flow of around 84 billion cubic meters.
The North African country has been in dispute with other Nile Basin countries eager for a greater share of river water to support power generation projects and agricultural growth.