“Egypt is implementing mega agricultural land reclamation projects in Sinai, Upper Egypt, the New Delta, Toshka, and east of Oweinat in southwest Egypt, writes Gamal Essam El-Din. The state is in a race against time to increase cultivated areas and boost agricultural production,” President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said on Sunday.
He was speaking at a meeting to discuss progress in implementing land reclamation projects attended by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, Minister of Agriculture Al-Sayed Al-Qusseir, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hani Suweilam, and Chairman of the Armed Forces’ Engineering Authority Ahmed Al-Azzaz.
The president took note of vertical and horizontal expansion projects being implemented to double the agricultural area and raise crop productivity.
“The president stressed that agricultural and food production projects have become a matter of life and death given the current global economic crisis and the challenges facing food security in most countries in recent years,” said Presidential Spokesperson Ahmed Fahmy.
Al-Qusseir said land reclamation projects in the New Delta, Toshka, Upper Egypt, and Sinai aim to increase Egypt’s cultivated area from 9.7 million feddans to more than 15 million feddans by 2030. The minister of agriculture underscored the importance of the projects to not only meet the food needs of an increasing population but boost exports and generate much-needed foreign currency.
In 2022, Egypt’s agricultural exports reached 6.5 million tons, generating foreign exchange receipts worth $3.3 billion. The government hopes to double receipts by 2030.
Mohamed Al-Shahat, head of the General Authority for Land Reclamation and Agricultural Development, told Al-Ahram on Monday that agricultural reclamation projects aim to achieve greater self-sufficiency in food, establish new integrated agricultural communities and improve the lives of rural citizens.
“Despite the high cost of land reclamation and limited water resources, the state is determined to expand such projects,” said Al-Shahat.
Attention is also being given to increasing the productivity of existing agricultural land. According to Al-Shahat, one goal is to create what is being called the New Delta where strategic crops like wheat, maize, and sugar cane will be cultivated, using the latest irrigation techniques, alongside horticultural crops including vegetables, fruit, and herbal plants for export.
In Toshka, Al-Shahat said the government aims to cultivate 100,000 feddans dedicated to producing strategic cereal crops including wheat, maize, and barley.
“Growing strategic crops, particularly wheat, is essential if we are to cut import bills,” he said.
Agriculture Ministry Spokesperson Mohamed Al-Kersh noted that land reclamation projects aim to increase Egypt’s cultivated area by three million feddans in three years, and five million feddans by 2030.
He explained that the New Delta project will extend the Nile Delta along the Mediterranean coast to reach Marsa Matrouh. Established on 2.2 million feddans, the reclamation project will cost an estimated LE300 billion.
“Studies have shown that 93 per cent of the area is suitable for the growing of crops, including wheat,” said Al-Kersh. “In the past, the area was widely cultivated, and the Romans considered Egypt the breadbasket of their empire.”
In Toshka, where 1.1 million feddans are set to be brought under cultivation, Al-Kersh said plans not only include farm areas but new housing communities.
“The Toshka project and the Egyptian Countryside Project — which includes eight Upper Egypt governorates — are examples of horizontal agricultural expansion projects,” said Al-Kersh. “The Egyptian Countryside Project aims to reclaim 1.5 million feddans connected with Upper Egyptian governorates through an integrated network of roads.”
The North and Middle Sinai Development Project, meanwhile, aims to add 456,000 feddans to Egypt’s cultivated area.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 April, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly