File Photo: Sayed El Nawawy, 67, picks cotton on his farm in Qaha about 25 km (16 miles) north of Cairo, September 22, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt has placed a temporary ban on cotton imports to protect its homegrown product, according to a statement from the agriculture ministry on Tuesday.
According to the statement, imports shipped before 4 July will be excluded from the decision. The ministry did not clarify how long the ban would stand.
"Regulations and mechanisms are currently being prepared to ensure the interest of cotton producers, manufacturers and exporters," read the statement, adding that the new decision aims at protecting domestic cotton production and improve marketing for it.
Egypt exported $83.8 million worth of raw cotton in 2013/14, down from $120.3 million the year prior, according to Central Bank data.
Imports of raw cotton, however, grew to $117.8 million in the same year up from $51.3 million.
Cotton acreage is expected this year to exceed 260,000 feddans, according to a March report issued by the ministry.
Earlier this year, the government decided to no longer subsidise cotton farmers.
According to the decades-old system, the government continued to guarantee purchases of cotton yields from farmers.
In 2014, the last year it guaranteed sales of crops to farmers, the government paid LE1,400 per feddan (1.038 acres), or a total of LE420 million ($58m) nationwide.
The government recently concluded that growing cotton, particularly the long-staple variety which has long been Egypt's hallmark, was too costly at a time of declining demand for the crop locally and internationally.
The decision has left farmers who choose to continue to grow cotton on their own to find buyers.