Egypt's agriculture ministry is planning to grow 1.1 million acres of rice in 2019, up from 800,000 acres the previous year, in a bid to increase local production of the staple crop using available resources, a spokesman said.
Egypt slashed cultivation of the water-intensive crop in 2018 to preserve water resources as Ethiopia prepares to fill the reservoir of a giant dam project it is building upstream on the Rive Nile, which Cairo fears could cut the country’s water supply.
The new increase is aimed at boosting local production of rice and in turn reducing imports, ministry spokesman Mohamed Al-Qersh told Ahram Online on Wednesday.
"We aim to increase our production of rice and optimise the use of available land and water resources," Al-Qersh said. The decision came after the ministry developed new draught- and salt-tolerant types of rice.
"We have evolved a type that uses the same water allocation of corn and another salt-tolerant type that can be irrigated by high-salt water," he said.
"These types will be put out for production this year," he added.
Last year, Egypt started importing rice, which it typically has a superabundance of, to save water and increase stocks.
Early in 2018, the government increased fines for illegal rice farming and lowered the area allowed to be planted with rice to only 724,200 feddans (750,000 acres) from the officially allotted 1.1 million feddans the previous year, before increasing it by a further 100,000 feddans a few months later.
The General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), Egypt's state grain-purchasing agency, has issued three international purchasing tenders since 2018.
Egypt imported 100 million EGP (approx. $5.7 million) worth of rice in 2018, the finance ministry said in a statement last month.