Dutch study unveils methods to boost Egypt's food security

Asmaa Mustafa, Wednesday 11 Oct 2023

Egypt has seen tremendous growth in the agricultural sector over the past 60 years. The sector contributes nearly 11 percent of GDP and 18 percent of export earnings. It also employs 20 percent of the total workforce.

Food Security


Egypt is intensifying efforts to develop this vital sector in line with its Vision 2030 and sustainable development goal of enhancing food security.

The Netherlands, being at the forefront of countries with long-term relations with Egypt, aims at boosting agricultural productivity and improving the quality and safety of goods

The Netherlands Agricultural Network in Egypt, in collaboration with Chemonics Egypt Consultants and Wageningen University and Research, conducted a study to showcase ways to reduce post-harvest losses (PHL), which is food lost in the phase between crop harvesting and consumption due to poor storage.

The study also focuses on enhancing export potential, evaluating cold chain investment opportunities, and improving value chain productivity and smallholder farmer competitiveness.

Cold chain refers to the techniques by which agricultural commodities can be stored at appropriate temperatures to avoid spoilage or change in colour or texture.

“In the Near East and North Africa, food loss and waste in food value chains amount to 250 kg per person, costing governments and citizens more than $60 billion annually,” the study noted.

In Egypt, the study reported, around 55 percent of fruits and vegetables, 40 percent of fish, and 30 percent of both milk and wheat are lost annually before reaching consumers because of poor infrastructure, storage, and management of pest and disease outbreaks, and unfavourable weather conditions.

The sharp losses in agricultural commodities lead to an increase in the country’s imports – Egypt imports around 40 percent of its food needs – besides a tough decrease in farmers' income, and inefficient use of water, energy and land.

Aligned with increasing demand for agricultural commodities by the middle class in Egypt due to population growth, investing in the field of cold chains is a promising opportunity for investors.

Egypt is planning to raise its cultivated area from 9.7 million acres in the current year to more than 15 million acres by 2030, which will lead to a boom in market supply. This requires a significant upgrade of cold chain solutions, according to the study.

Among the cooling technologies the study identified is evaporative cooling that “relies on water as a refrigerant, which doesn’t negatively impact the environment and is considered.” It is used to cool tomatoes, mangoes, bananas, greenpepper, and leafy vegetables.

Hydro-cooling can cool large quantities of commodities through the contact between cold water and harvested fruits and vegetables. It is used to cool apples, pears, and watermelons.

Vapour compression, the most popular cooling technology used in Egypt, depends on the use of electricity and steam in the cooling process.

Forced air cooling technology, which is used to cool all fruits and vegetables, focuses on reducing the time taken to cool down commodities, resulting in a more efficient use of production inputs.

Sorption depends on natural, sustainable refrigerants, such as water and ammonia. It is used to cool bananas, citrus produce, and mangoes.

Omar Abdel-Latif, agricultural advisor for the Embassy of the Netherlands in Egypt, told Ahram Online that the study is the result of extensive efforts to set cooling technologies that could be used in Egypt to enhance the preservation of agricultural foods and avoid spoilage.

“The technologies included in the study contribute to increasing the efficiency of the water used in the production process,” Abdel-Latif added.

Applying cooling technologies will contribute to enhancing food security in Egypt by reducing lost food during the phase between crop harvesting and consumption.

The study indicated that applying these technologies will help reduce losses in agricultural crops, enhancing the quality of the crops exported to the European Union, such as grapes, potatoes, citrus, and strawberries.

The top attractive investment opportunities include building centralized collection centres for farmers and food aggregators, developing ventilation systems for potatoes in dry areas, and enhancing packaging systems, the study pointed out.

It stressed the need of providing small and large refrigerated trucks to transport products and cooling units near production sites for large-holder farmers and consumption centres.

The study sheds light on vital investment opportunities in the agricultural sector, which will enable Egypt to preserve its crops and open new export markets especially in Europe, Tycho Vermeulen, the agricultural counsellor for the Embassy of the Netherlands in Egypt, told Ahram Online.

"The relations between Egypt and Netherlands will witness further cooperation and development in the coming years," Vermeulen said.


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