Food security has formed one of the most critical challenges faced by the Egyptian economy in recent decades. Despite the presence of the natural and human resources needed to achieve self-sufficiency, Egypt has not realised its target for growth in agricultural production. Both population growth and the quantities of wasted production pressure the supply-demand balance.
As Egypt’s population reached 90 million by the end of 2015, several experts expect the government to have a new plan to combat the food gap suffered by society. Egypt imported approximately 65% of its food needs during 2015.
Agricultural Economics Professor at Cairo University Gamal Siam said the agricultural industry plays a significant role in providing work opportunities and eliminating unemployment. It also helps develop various economic activities, reduce reliance on imports, and support the country’s ability to export goods.
Siam explained agricultural industrialisation is one of Egypt’s most important economic sectors but that it lacks some basic components, such as funding. An improvement in this field will have a multiplier effect on many other sectors.
There is a need for a map demonstrating investment opportunities in agricultural production in Egypt’s governorates. The map should be marketed to existing factories or new factories should be built to take advantage of these opportunities.
The ancient fertile land located in the Delta and the Nile Valley is cultivated with fruit crops. While this provides for citizens’ well-being, it is preferable that these lands be utilised to cultivate major crops such as rice, corn, and wheat.
Siam said the owners of old lands in the Valley and the Delta should be encouraged to cultivate major crops and move fruit crops to agricultural lands where this type of farming is better-suited. Land ownership incentives are needed as well to encourage farmers to cultivate major crops.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Agro Egypt Mohamed Roshdy said that agricultural industrialisation helps enhance agriculture and bring value-added to agricultural crops, reduce losses, and provide safe food products.
He estimated the volume of losses in Egypt to 50% of crops from the field and 20-25% of horticultural crops due to poor transportation and storage operations. He demanded that industrial zones be established next to cultivated lands in order to resolve this issue.
Agricultural industrialisation requires broad areas in which factories can be established alongside cultivated lands and that the factories preserve waste produced during transport and save money on transportation costs.
The environment also benefits from the establishment of agricultural industrialisation by recycling agricultural wastes, Roshdy said and that the industry is inherently labour intensive.
Head of the Egyptian British Co. for General Development Abdel Wahid Al-Sayed said that agricultural industrialisation enhances the value of products such as strawberries and artichokes by a factor of three and decreases waste. Industrialisation helps protect products shipped to foreign countries against damage due to long distances travelled or customs delays.
He said the government should provide incentives for land owners who are moving to irrigate their land through modern irrigation methods and that floor system methods are not suitable for the water shortage in Egypt.
Head of the Food Science Department at Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Agriculture Mohamed Farag said the opportunity to expand agricultural industrialisation is unpaved. There is a need to adapt efforts and provide incentives that encourage investment, including demonstrating opportunities for expansion in these industries.
He explained how investment in the agricultural sector could be improved in three basic steps. The first involves re-pricing land in new areas and granting investors discounted prices and that these transactions take place outside of the tender system utilised for construction lands.
The second step involves rezoning land and facilitating procedures for investors to obtain plots directly, as well as providing a tax exemption incentive for new investors. Farag believes that such incentives should be granted for a minimum of five years.
General Secretary of the Arab Cooperative Union Mohamed Mansour said that investment in the agricultural sector does not exceed EGP 10bn at present and that the figure needs to be increased by a factor of three at the least.
Agricultural industrialisation and agriculture are two sides of the same coin, according to Mansour, and coordination and integration between production, processing, and export policies are key. There should be tight relations between agricultural industrialisation facilities and farmers. This would enhances the value-added of agricultural crops, reduces waste, helps increase the supply of agricultural products throughout the year, expands farmers’ income, develops farming methods to reduce waste, and encourages agricultural investment and new land reclamation.
Egypt’s annual production of tomatoes amounts to 7m tonnes, 35% of which is spoiled due to the use of outdated technology in production, harvesting, transport, and storage.
Agricultural industrialisation can save 1.7m job opportunities, increase farmers’ returns and income, and create a greater capacity for economic growth.
Mansour further stressed the need to offer small plots for agricultural reclamation for youth and to sign contracts for the youth to supply all of their production to major companies with the capacity to manufacture them.