Interview: Alaa Diab
Given Egypt’s growing population, what can be done in the domestic agriculture sector to reduce imports of staples and bring down retail prices?
ALAA DIAB: The president and top government officials are giving close attention to expanding agricultural expansion, particularly through the addition of newly reclaimed land. Indeed, the president recently met with various companies active in the food sector to better understand the challenges they face, encouraging them to invest in government plans to add around 600,000 ha of new agricultural land.
Further to this, there needs to be a greater focus on improving productivity through research and by using high-quality seeds and plants. It would also be helpful to increase the size of retail outlets throughout the country – for instance by building more hypermarkets in the governorates – to cut out the numerous middle layers in the process of getting food to market, which have the effect of increasing prices for the end consumer. Promoting the creation of logistics centres in the governorates would also help improve handling, as well as decrease the amount of waste by offering more products at lower prices.
Which products and markets possess the most potential in terms of export opportunities?
DIAB: Europe and the member states of the GCC are currently the largest recipients of Egyptian agricultural products. However, many opportunities exist to increase exports to Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Products grown in Egypt are generally ideal to export as they are high in quality and volume, especially when it comes to fruit, vegetables and cereals.
The government should prioritise the adoption of export support policies, such as tax and Customs rebates, logistics, and shipping solutions. These can include, for instance, subsidies for air freight and local carriers, support for investments in chemical analysis labs, and improved health and safety regulations.
What types of farming technologies are being employed to attain higher levels of productivity?
DIAB: The government should encourage a more cooperative model of production within the Nile Valley and Delta given how fragmented land ownership has historically been in these areas. Furthermore, as part of the grouping of smaller growers into larger plots, the government should promote the use of more modern irrigation systems. This will help save water, freeing it up for further agricultural use.
How can the government protect the intellectual property rights of companies introducing new crop varieties to Egypt?
DIAB: We have been assured by the president that intellectual property laws for the sector will be issued very soon. This will be helpful in opening up new markets for Egypt, as we will be allowed to grow protected varieties that are in demand in certain export markets in higher quantities than at present.
What measures can be taken to address and alleviate the challenge of water availability?
DIAB: Resolving the issue of water availability is closely linked to expanding the available amount of cultivable land in Egypt. There needs to be a concerted effort to improve irrigation methods in areas that have historically been used for growing, such as the Nile Valley and Delta. The government is studying the use of underground water resources to allow for the expansion of cultivable land. In this respect, and in others, it has learned from previous mistakes made in similar efforts in Toshka, Eweinat and Sinai, and is determined not to repeat them.
Further to this, there needs to be a thorough technical study on these planned expansion projects in order to attract more international investors. In general, also, we need to create new, environmentally friendly communities around these land expansions.
You have reached the limit of premium articles you can view for free.
Choose from the options below to purchase print or digital editions of our Reports. You can also purchase a website subscription giving you unlimited access to all of our Reports online for 12 months.
If you have already purchased this Report or have a website subscription, please login to continue.