Egypt’s Ministry of Planning and Economic Development has participated in preparing the chapter on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) published in the Global Food Policy Report for 2021. The report was issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
The chapter deals with the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on agri-food systems and household incomes in Egypt, Jordan, and Sudan.
The report showed the difference in the size of the disruptions resulting from the pandemic among the economies in the region. It indicated that the percentage of losses in Egypt was relatively limited as a result of the country avoiding a complete closure and investing in a huge stimulus package.
According to the report’s findings, agri-food systems showed relative flexibility in the Middle East, where the percentage of decline in agricultural food output ranged between 3-9% in Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan. It reached about 38% in Jordan, and agriculture was one of the least affected sectors in Egypt and Sudan.
The report indicated that some value chains have enjoyed a significant increase in demand, such as medicinal and aromatic plants, supported by increased demand for exports. The agri-food system represents a strong basis for recovery and transformation after the coronavirus pandemic, due to its relative resilience.
The report pointed out that some economies and sectors are recovering at a faster rate based on the national policies adopted. The stimulus package, which amounted to EGP 100bn in Egypt, is estimated to have limited the decline in the gross domestic product, from 8.7% to only 1.1%, in the period from April to June 2020.
The stimulus package in Egypt was aimed at supporting the hardest-hit sectors, including exports, tourism, and real estate.
This is in addition to the Egyptian Government’s easing of credit restrictions for companies, providing tax incentives, and expanding cash transfer programmes. The report referred to the investment plan that Egypt is implementing, now at a value of EGP 280bn, which has led to an improved economic performance in the second half (H2) of 2020.
The report indicated that the demand for digital tools has increased dramatically during the pandemic, with recent studies highlighting those sectors that have been digitally transformed, such as food delivery.
Moreover, the global health crisis has provided an opportunity to accelerate the digitisation process, and increase private and public investment.
Dr Ahmed Kamali, Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development, said that the ministry holds consultations with other concerned ministries, business associations, civil society, and academia.
These consultations aim to assess the effects of the pandemic on the components of GDP, employment, poverty, and the balance of payments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kamali pointed out that informal employment has been targeted, and policies have been developed to support it in light of the pandemic. At the sectoral level, the tourism and industry sectors have been targeted and supported.
“Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based solutions are being targeted because they are necessary to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic, in addition to financial support has been provided to help companies cover their operating expenses and thus prevent bankruptcies,” he added.
Kamali said that due to some opportunities generated by the crisis, work is now underway to reform the business climate and increase supply chain productivity in Egypt to be more competitive after the pandemic.