The area planted with sugar beet and cane in Egypt in the 2011/2012 season will hold steady, an official said in remarks published on Wednesday, dousing talk that lucrative prices offered by the state for wheat would encourage a switch.
Abdel Wahab Allam, president of Egyptian Sugar Crop Council, said he expected farmers to plant 400,000 feddans (168,000 hectares) with sugar beet and 320,000 feddans with cane this season, al-Borsa newspaper reported.
Those figures are roughly the same as last year.
"The total area of beet sugar is expected to yield 1.125 million tonnes of sugar," Allam said.
In the 2010/11 season, Egypt produced 2 million tonnes of sugar from 396,000 feddans of beet and 311,000 feddans of cane. Egypt consumes around 3 million tonnes of sugar a year, using imports to fill the gap.
Allam said farmers had started sowing 350,000 feddans with beet and planting was expected to continue till mid-November.
Egypt has raised the price it will pay local farmers for wheat next season to 380 Egyptian pounds ($63.60) per ardeb (140 kg) from 350 pounds last season in a bid to boost output.
The new price is equivalent to about $454 per tonne -- far above the roughly $250 per tonne Egypt paid at a tender this month for imported grain.
The North African country, which depends on the Nile for almost all its water, is trying to expand sugar beet plantation as it consumes less water than cane. Beet is mostly grown in the Nile Delta region while cane sugar is grown in southern Egypt.