President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated the first phase of the Al-Fayrouz fish-farming project, the Middle East’s largest fish farm located east of Port Said about 196km northeast of Cairo, on Saturday.
The project is built on an area of 15,886 feddans (one feddan equals 1.038 acres) and is planned to include 5,908 tanks with annual production of 13,000 tons. Its first phase, inaugurated this week, is constructed on 14,398 square metres and has a total of 5,331 tanks.
The project also includes two lakes, a fish-processing factory, an ice-production factory, a test and research laboratory, and a number of water plants, in addition to a network of canals and drains.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi, the project provides 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities and is meant to secure foreign currency and support the national economy by increasing fish exports to the Arab and European countries.
He added that the project aims at reducing the gap between fish production and consumption in Egypt in order to achieve self-sufficiency and reduce fish imports.
Head of the General Authority for Fish Resources Development (GAFRD) Salah Moselhi told the state-owned daily Al-Gomhouriya that the authority was operating according to Egypt’s 2030 Strategy that aims to increase local fish production to three million tons of fish by 2030.
“Egypt currently ranks first in Africa and sixth worldwide in fish-farm production. In 2020, Egypt produced almost two million tons of fish with a value of about LE50 billion, of which 80 per cent was produced through fish-farming,” Moselhi said.
Ali Abdel-Mohsen, chairman of the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, said that Egypt was 90 per cent self-sufficient in fish and that the average fish consumption per capita was 20kg per year. “Egypt’s exports of fish amount to about 35,552 tons valued at LE883 million,” Abdel-Mohsen said.
With the River Nile and two coastlines overlooking the Mediterranean and Red seas, fish have long been a cheap source of protein for many Egyptians. Tilapia, locally known as bolty, is the most farmed species of fish in Egypt. Its price ranges between LE25 and LE40 per kg depending on its source, around five to six times less than the price of a kg of meat.
“Egypt ranks third in the production of tilapia worldwide, representing 70 to 75 per cent of local fish production,” Moselhi said, adding that Egypt exports fish to various Arab and African countries.
Al-Sisi also inaugurated the first phase of another fish-farming project at Al-Deepa, west of Port Said, via video-conference on Saturday. The project is built on 203 feddans of land. The first phase is built on 107 feddans of land and comprises 60 tanks, while the second phase, still under construction, is being built on 96 feddans and is scheduled to include 12 tanks.
Fish-farming in Egypt has been growing over the past few years due to the expansion of projects.
One of the most prominent was inaugurated in 2017 in the shape of the Berket Ghalioun (Ghalioun Lake) fish-farming project located in the Delta Kafr Al-Sheikh governorate, 134km north of Cairo. It has a production capacity of five million kg of fish and shrimps per year.
The project was built on 12,000 feddans of land and has 1,359 basins for freshwater and saltwater fish and shrimp farming. The project’s industrial zone, established on an area of 55 feddans, includes ice and foam factories and packaging and fish-feed factories with a capacity of 120,000 tons a year. It also produces 60,000 tons of shrimp feed a year.
During his speech at the inauguration of the Al-Fayrouz project, Al-Sisi highlighted ongoing projects to develop 1,500 villages in Egypt’s countryside. “In three years’ time, the Egyptian countryside will be greatly transformed,” the president said.
In addition to offering job opportunities, the projects would also provide sanitation services, road networks, drinking water systems, and government institutions in addition to other facilities, he said.
Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Kabbaj confirmed that Al-Sisi had ordered the expansion of the “Decent Life” initiative to develop Egyptian villages, including 1,500 villages in 50 centres inhabited by 18 million citizens.
She added that the initiative came within the framework of state plans to develop all Egyptian villages within three years in order to improve standards of living, infrastructure, and basic services.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said the state had launched the initiative in cooperation with civil society and private-sector institutions, adding that the total cost was some LE515 billion. The biggest challenge was not the funds, however, but the enormous number of projects being implemented simultaneously, Madbouli added.
He explained that the state had implemented more than 31,000 projects to improve people’s lives in rural and urban areas as part of the “Decent Life” initiative. These would be completed within the next three years, he said, with an investment exceeding LE5.8 trillion of which LE3 trillion had already been spent.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.