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Full text of SSCHR's report on Egypt's efforts to realise the right to food

Ahram Online publishes the full text of a report issued by Egypt's Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights on the Egyptian efforts to realise the right to food

Ahram Online , Thursday 15 Oct 2020
The Technical Secretariat of Egypt's Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights (SSCHR) issued on Thursday a report regarding the Egyptian efforts to realise the right to food on the occasion of celebrating the World Food Day on 16 October. 
Below is the full text of the report:
Since 1981, the world has celebrated World Food Day on the sixteenth of October of each year and, on this occasion, the Technical Secretariat of the SSCHR prepared this report on the Egyptian efforts to realize the right to food. The report clarifies the national framework to protect this right, along with the efforts the government has taken at the level of operational policies and programs to enhance its implementation.

First: The National framework for the protection of the right to food:

-The constitutional framework: The Egyptian constitution stipulated the right of every citizen to healthy and adequate food, and obligated the state to secure food resources for all citizens, to ensure food sovereignty in a sustainable manner; and to ensure the preservation of agricultural biodiversity and local plant varieties to preserve the rights of future generations (Article 79 of the Constitution). This article is considered an important step in terms of placing the right to food within the framework of economic and social rights that the state is committed to with all its agencies and institutions. The constitution also considered agriculture a basic component of the national economy, and obligated the state to protect and increase the agricultural area, criminalize attacks on it, develop agricultural and animal production, and encourage industries that are based on them (Article 29 of the constitution).

- The legislative framework: Legislation was passed on reclamation of new lands, the prevention of encroachment on agricultural lands, and centers for counseling and training services. A law was also issued to establish the Agricultural Solidarity Fund to cover the damage resulting from natural disasters and other risks to agricultural crops to achieve sustainable agricultural development. A set of legislations related to food security have been issued, the most important of which are the law establishing the General Authority for Food Safety and the Consumer Protection Law.

-The sustainable development strategy “Egypt Vision 2030” includes several goals that are directly related to the promotion of the right to food. The most important of these goals are: increasing agricultural land, increasing agricultural production and achieving self-sufficiency in a number of strategic commodities, protecting agricultural lands, developing agricultural technology, and establishing agricultural industries clusters; that is as well as taking into consideration the environmental dimension and moving towards sustainable agriculture, and the development of livestock, poultry and fish.

Second: The Government's efforts to promote the realization of the right to food:

-The government is making continuous efforts, on several parallel tracks, in realizing the right to food and raising the level of food security in Egypt. Notable efforts include those related to developing the agricultural sector, increasing livestock, fish and poultry, increasing food subsidies, especially for those in greatest need, and reducing food waste. Furthermore, they include raising awareness of the importance of proper nutrition, and improve the quality of foodstuff by strengthening food safety oversight.

-In 2019, Egypt advanced six places in the Global Food Security Index, where it was ranked the 55th in the world, after it was 61 in 2018. Egypt also ranked 23 in the world in the food availability index after it was 39 in 2018, and it came in the 50th place in the Food Quality and Security Index after it was 57th.

-The total value of food production in Egypt increased to more than 500 billion Egyptian pounds in the fiscal year 2017/2018 compared to only 305 billion Egyptian pounds in 2013/2014, which indicates a remarkable improvement in the availability of food in the local market. The improvement in the foreign exchange reserve ratio contributed to covering about 6 months of food imports in 2019 compared to less than 2.5 months in 2012, and this helped to ensure the stability of imports of basic commodities. It is worth noting that this improvement came as a result of improved macroeconomic indicators following the economic reforms that were implemented between 2016 and 2019. The Government Action Program (2018-2022) aims to achieve the highest possible degree of self-sufficiency in the provision of basic food commodities.

The following is a review of the most prominent achievements in several areas related to the realization of the right to food:

1- Development of the agricultural sector:

Self-sufficiency ratios of important agricultural crops were raised, and strategic crops that support food security were expanded.

The contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP for the year 2019 was approximately 12%. The Egyptian Government Action Program (2018-2022) aims to increase the total cropped area to nearly 18 million acres, and raise the acre productivity levels of the various groups between 15% and 25%.

The national project for reclamation of one and a half million acres was launched as a first stage of a total target of four million acres to ensure the growth of agricultural output. This project includes an integrated agro-industrial approach to specific crops, vegetables and fruits.

The government has taken decisive measures to prevent encroachment on agricultural lands.

The government was keen to increase the agricultural area to compensate for what Egypt lost as a result of dredging, uprooting, and urban encroachment. The government established New Egyptian Countryside Development Company, which is specialized in reclamation and development of one and a half million acres. The company is also working to establish new sustainable communities based on agriculture in new lands according to a scientific, technical and economic methodology.

The average per capita share of cereals increased during the year from 221.1 kg in 2012 to 244.9 kg in 2018, and the average per capita share of wheat increased from 122.5 kg in 2012 to 155.2 kg in 2018.

The Silos National Project is one of the national projects that the government has paid special attention to, given the importance of wheat as a strategic food commodity. The project includes the construction of 50 giant silos to store wheat and grains according to the latest storage technology systems to be implemented and established in 17 governorates. The storage capacity of wheat increased to 301 million tons of wheat annually during the period from July 2014 to June 2020. The government's work program (2018-2022) aims to increase the storage capacity of wheat by constructing 13 silos, and ensuring a strategic reserve of 4030 thousand tons of wheat.

The Egyptian government signed an agreement with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization "FAO" in 2018 aimed at combining innovative international best practices with global standards, and national and regional experiences during the partnership period extending from 2018 to 2022. In accordance with this agreement, the organization will also provide support to the Egyptian government to implement the national program framework based on the following priorities: Improving agricultural productivity, raising the level of food security for strategic food commodities, and the sustainable use of natural agricultural resources.

2- Increasing livestock, fish and poultry:

The state works through an integrated national program based on preserving and developing the current livestock, poultry and fish wealth to meet the increasing demand, with the aim of increasing supply on the one hand, improving quality and reducing costs on the other hand.

In the field of livestock, the government's plan aims to increase production from 950 thousand tons in the year 2016/2017 to 1.75 million tons in 2020/2021/2022, which raises the self-sufficiency rate of red meat from 79% to 82% in 2021/2022. The plan aims as well to increase domestic production of milk from about 6 million tons in the year 2016/2017 to about 10.5 million tons on 2021/2022, which raises the self-sufficiency rate from 90% to 99% by the end of 2021/2022.

With regard to poultry, the self-sufficiency rate of white meat has been raised to about 95%.

In the field of fish wealth development, fish farming projects have been expanded. Fishing ports, repair and maintenance workshops, and the manufacturing equipment attached to them have also been established and developed. The government aims to increase fish production from 1.9 million tons in 2016/2017 to about 3 million tons in 2022/2021, so that production from the Nile River will increase by 7% annually, from the lakes by 13%, and from marine aquaculture by about 20%.

3- The state's efforts to provide healthy food to the neediest groups:

The government has pursued policies and programs to provide food at subsidized prices to the neediest groups. The value of commodity support allocations during 2020/2021 amounted to 89 billion Egyptian pounds. The number of beneficiaries of the ration card system applied in Egypt is approximately 69 million people. The number of beneficiaries from the bread subsidy system is 79 million citizens. As well as the percentage of bread subsidy from the budget is 6%.

The new food subsidy system depends on directing subsidies to those who deserve it, while allowing the beneficiaries to choose between 20 commodities.

The government contributes to providing basic food commodities at reduced prices through a disciplined and regular distribution network consisting of 1172 branches of companies affiliated to the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade covering all parts of the governorates. That is in addition to the projects implemented by the government such as the "My Society" project, with a total number of 4,605 ​​commodity distribution outlets. The target is to reach 6000 outlets in 2020, in addition to projects of ports and mobile services, with a total of 2,414 mobile cars in various governorates, and the addition of 1,000 cars is scheduled to be completed by 2022, in addition to many seasonal exhibitions.

Introducing some amendments to the food subsidy program with the aim of improving the nutritional value of the commodities provided under the program and encouraging the beneficiaries to follow healthy and more varied diets.

Expanding free school feeding programs to accommodate more than 11 million students, with up to 81% of the students enrolled in the basic education stage of public and Azharian education. The Ministry of Finance approved in the fiscal year 2019/2020 budget about 2 billion Egyptian pounds for school feeding, as 70 million meals were produced during the academic year 2019/2020. 40 million school meals were distributed during the first semester of 2019/2020 to school students in 13 governorates of the Republic.

Within the framework of policies to develop social safety nets, government policies support the Egyptian societal experience to combat hunger through the "Egyptian Food Bank", which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that aims to eliminate hunger in Egypt. The year 2019 saw the bank assist about 3.5 million families with the monthly and seasonal feeding program, as well as providing nearly 3 million school meals for 24 schools.

4- Increasing awareness of the importance of proper nutrition and reducing food loss and waste:

Conducting a number of awareness campaigns to reduce food waste and the importance of proper nutrition that prevents chronic diseases, especially among the most vulnerable groups to diseases related to malnutrition.

In 2019, the Ministry of Health launched a program to detect diseases related to malnutrition among school children such as obesity, anemia and stunting, provided that treatment is done by referring the child to health insurance for follow-up and treatment for free. This campaign targeted about 11.5 million students in more than 22,000 schools.

The prevalence of undernourishment and malnutrition among the population decreased during 2018 compared to 2017 to reach 4.5%, as well as the percentage of children who suffer from stunting from about 30.7% in 2012 to about 22.3% in 2018, and the weight gain index of children under five decreased from 20.5% in 2012 to 15.7% in 2017.

The Egyptian government, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through the project "Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Developing the Value Chain to Ensure Food Security in Egypt" was able to train and develop the capacities of about 7895 farmers, agricultural advisors, and tradesmen on how to reduce loss and waste of crops for post-harvest period.

5- Development of food safety control efforts:

The National Authority for Food Quality and Safety Insurance was established in 2017. It is an agency affiliated with the President of the Republic and aims to protect consumer health by ensuring that the food produced, processed, distributed or traded in the market meets the highest safety and health standards. The establishment of the authority reflects the adoption of a new preventive method and thinking based on monitoring the process of handling food with the aim of avoiding any source of pollution during all stages of the food chain.

The authority shall develop and implement a system to control food establishments and verify their implementation of the provisions of food legislation through all stages of food handling.

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