By Ahmed Salama
A new company hopes to cultivate up to 200,000 feddans of land in North Sinai.
The General Authority for Investment (GAFI) inaugurated the Sinai Company for Project Development on Thursday, founded in part by a group of businessmen led by former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, with an initial investment of EGP 1 billion.
The Secretary General of the initiative Abdullah Al-Beltagy said, “the broader plan known as ‘Sinai 2020’, will seek to cultivate 200,000 feddans of land in North Sinai in the regions of al-Sir and al-Qawarir. The company expects to issue its IPO for EGP 100 a share by the beginning of 2013.”
The company has asked the Ministry of Housing to establish 10,000 housing units to accommodate the region’s youth who are expected to work on the project.
“All necessary steps have already been taken to establish the company, and an account has been opened in its name in one of Egypt’s most prominent banks,” said Al-Beltagy. He added that the company has entered into consultations with several accounting agencies regarding going public by 2013, in order to ensure maximum public participation in the project.
He added that the establishment of the company was only one of what is expected to be a series of projects to be included in the greater “Sinai 2020” plan. Other plans would include an assortment of industrial projects in the Sinai, funded by investment from a number of high profile Egyptian businessmen.
The Deputy of the Ministry of Farming in North Sinai Atef Matar said, “the region possesses a total of 425,000 feddans of cultivatable land, which would be used to grow wheat and barley.”
Those particular crops were selected for cultivation because the Ministry of Agriculture has asked to buy 400 tonnes of both wheat and barley. The ministry stated that it would buy the crops at cost, with cultivation beginning at the onset of the rainy season. They further stated that they would be able to guarantee the success of the yield within 20 days.
The president of the Europe/Egypt Industrial zone, El-Sayyed Al-Baz, who oversees government funding of the company, said, “the plans have already been completed to buy seeds and all necessary equipment from the Ministry of Agriculture, which includes the sale of 120 tractors.”
Al-Baz stated that the company is currently seeking funding from three primary sources. The first being from GAFI’s SMEs Fund, which plans to lend nearly EGP 600 million, with no interest, to the Sinai Development Company, to fund projects aimed at employing the region’s youth to work the land.
The second source of funding comes from the European Union, who has lent the Ministry of Agriculture EGP 9 million at 2.5 per cent interest for the purpose of cultivating the land and exploiting the region’s wealth in livestock.
Contributions have also been made by various businessmen, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“I hope to have the company propose similar agricultural development projects in all parts of the region, for the purpose of exploiting the Sinai’s full economic and human potential,” said the President of the Youth Investors Organization of North Sinai, Tamer El-Shorbagi, who is responsible for overseeing labour and employment in the region.
He added that the company hopes to encourage local and foreign investment as a means of exploiting the Sinai’s wealth, seeking foreign investment after the proven success of local Egyptian investments.