Record wheat harvest

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 17 May 2023

On Sunday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi used a video conference to welcome the wheat harvest season at the East Owainat reclamation project in the Western Desert.


The government is hoping this year’s wheat harvest will top six million tons. The year-on-year increase of 1.5 million tons will reduce import bills and, by extension, the pressure on public finances.

The East Owainat project, located 365 km south of Dakhla Oasis in the New Valley governorate and 500 km from Lake Nasser, covers an estimated 528,000 feddans divided into plots, half of them allocated to agricultural companies that produce wheat and other strategic crops. The second largest project in Upper Egypt in terms of wheat production, it is expected to produce around three million tons annually. 

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said the use of smart irrigation techniques in East Owainat and Toshka — south of Egypt, near Aswan — will allow the newly reclaimed areas to expand to cover one million feddans. 

“One million feddans is equal to the cultivated area of three Nile Delta governorates and will help generate one million job opportunities in the agricultural sector,” said President Al-Sisi.

“It is important to reclaim new lands to achieve food security. At the same time, we have to rationalise water use in order to make the most of available underground water in East Owainat by adopting smart irrigation methods in accordance with best international practices to ensure efficiency and avoid loss,” said Al-Sisi.

“Over the past four years we have been able to cultivate these lands and secure the first harvests.”

Next year, explained Al-Sisi, the West Owainat project will be launched alongside the remaining parts of the Toshka project, increasing the area of cultivated land in both areas. He added that people from the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt moving to live in Owainat and Toshka areas “will find a lot of job opportunities and see a lot of agricultural investments”.

Tawfik Sami, chair of the National Company for Desert Reclamation and Cultivation, says an additional 460,000 feddans in East Owainat have already been reclaimed, and a further 200,000 to 250,000 feddans will be reclaimed in the Toshka agricultural project by the end of this year. According to Sami, “most of these lands will be cultivated with wheat and other strategic crops to raise local production and cut down on imports.”

Since 2014, 1.5 million palm trees have been cultivated in East Owainat. There is also a potato storage and processing facility with a capacity of 160,000 tons which will help reduce transportation and production costs for investors.

Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Moselhi said more than 3.2 million feddans are being cultivated with wheat this season, the largest area ever. He noted that the increase in the area devoted to wheat is due mainly to the record price the government is paying farmers this season — up from LE1,250 per ardeb (about 150 kg) last year to LE1,500. 

“The wheat harvest season in East Owainat usually starts around the second half of April and continues until the second half of June,” said Moselhi. “The government has so far bought more than two million tons of local wheat since the start of the harvest season, which is a third of the six-million-ton target this season.”

“Increasing the production of local wheat cuts import bills, reduces the demand on foreign exchange and narrows the gap between production and consumption,” said Moselhi. 

While the minister of agriculture stressed the government has enough wheat reserves to cover five months of consumption, reducing wheat imports continues to be a priority after the war between Russia and Ukraine disrupted supply chains. Before the war, Egypt imported more than 50 per cent of its wheat needs from Russia and Ukraine.

Moselhi said the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade’s storage facilities can accommodate 5.5 million tons of wheat, and that the government has “taken a number of measures to make it easier for farmers to deliver wheat to government silos”. 

The Ministry of Supply has set up 420 collection points for wheat close to harvest areas to ease transport and reduce freight costs. The government has also accelerated its payment systems, meaning farmers can receive their payments within 48 hours of delivery.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: