A farmer drives a tractor through smoke from burning rice straw in preparation for the next harvest REUTERS
Over 500,000 tons of rice straw have been collected this year as part of the country's efforts to reduce pollution caused by straw burning, Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad told Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly in a meeting on Saturday.
The black cloud caused by the burning of rice straw – a by-product of rice farming – at the end of the harvest season first appeared over the Nile Delta and Cairo in 1997, but did not become visible to the naked eye until two years later.
The amount of rice straw collected by the government this year accounts for 88 percent of the straw produced this harvest season, Minister Fouad said, adding that last year, the government collected 350,000 tons of rice straw.
Fouad noted that as many as 289 sites have been opened for collecting rice straw in Nile Delta governorates.
Up to 75 centres affiliated with the environment ministry have been set up to follow up on the burning of agricultural and solid waste, she said.
Rice is one of the most common crops cultivated by farmers in Egypt, and it is a staple food for the vast majority of the country's population.
Egypt's rice production stood at 4.3 million tonnes in 2020/2021, the same as in 2019/2020, and the country's consumption of rice increased to 4.5 million tonnes in 2020/2021, up from 4.4 million tonnes in 2019/2020, according to a report released by the US' Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in September.