Representatives of farmers and traders expressed their anger at the policies adopted by the state, and its way of dealing with the agriculture sector, during the conference entitled ‘200 years of Egyptian cotton’ on Monday.
The farmers believe that the cotton crop, in particular, suffered from a marketing crisis during the current year, forced the Ministry of Agriculture to secure funding from seven banks to purchase the crop yield at 12% interest.
Magdi El-Sharaki, head of the General Authority for Agrarian Reform, said the government asked the Ministry of Agriculture to increase the cultivated areas of the crop. Furthermore, he said that “the ministry responded but did not set up a marketing plan for the crop.”
He continued by saying that the decision of the Cabinet to set the price of the crop at EGP 2,700 in the Nile Delta region, and at EGP 2,500 for Upper Egypt, ahead of the planting season was right, and encouraged the farmers to plant the crop, however the decision did not specify a buyer.
Mamdouh Hamada, chairperson of the Central Agricultural Cooperative Union, said that the government did not deal with the soaring costs of production in the agricultural sector, nor did it take into consideration the implementation of the amendments of Agriculture Law approved by the President in 2015.
“The government made a mistake in demanding an increase in agriculture areas, before finding a consumer market, especially as Egyptian spinning factories refuse to deal with Egyptian cotton.”
“Most local factories operate on short and medium-sized staple cottons, while the global demand for the long-term staple is very weak,” said Mohamed El-Morshedi, head of the Textile Industries Chamber of the Federation of Industries.
He highlighted that imported cotton costs less than its domestic counterpart, as it ranges EGP 1,700 EGP 1,900 per quintal, while local prices are at least EGP 2,700.
On the other hand, Mona Mehrez, deputy agriculture minister for Animal, Fish and Poultry, defended the government stance. She said that the ministry focused on the development of three new high-productivity cotton varieties, preserving the genetic purity of the current types, identifying the needs of local spinners, and finally the development of the cotton gins.
“About 55,000 tonnes were exported last season, indicating the importance of the crop worldwide, but the low consumption of local spinners last season, requires study and coordination between the ministries,” she specified.
Hossam Farid, consultant to the Minister of Trade and Industry for SMEs, said the attention is now focused on developing the industry locally, especially as it is labour-intensive.
Mohsen Adel, chairperson of the General Authority for Investment, said that the cotton sector needs incentives provided by the state to achieve the development process.
Meanwhile, Adel pointed to the restrictions on companies operating in the spinning and weaving sector in large industrialised countries, including China, Turkey and Bangladesh recently, paving the way for Egyptian companies to achieve a genuine surge in the industry.
Finally, he said the government encourages factories to produce for export, not for the local market.