Strawberries are one of Egypt s top agricultural exports (photo: AP)
Investment in order to improve the efficiency and sustainability of agriculture and growth catalysts in the food industries was discussed during the Food Summit held in Cairo last week that brought together government officials, the private sector, and NGOs.
Food security has become an increasing challenge along with issues related to supply chains, higher costs, and increasing climate impacts, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Al-Sayed Al-Quseir told summit participants.
He said the ministry was working on achieving food security, strengthening the export capacity of agricultural products, and improving the livelihoods of farmers. The government was working on the expansion and reclamation of desert land to increase the country’s arable land area, he said.
Egypt’s agricultural land now stands at around nine million acres, the minister said. Among the efforts to boost the amount of land that can be used for agriculture is the giant New Delta Project on an area of 2.2 million acres, making Egypt a pioneer in such projects, and the Toshka Al-Khair project with an area of 1.1 million acres.
There is also the development of North and Central Sinai, in addition to multiple projects in the New Valley governorate. The minister also stressed the government’s support for increasing agricultural exports to the 160 markets worldwide to which more than 400 agricultural products are currently being exported.
New markets are being opened, such as the Japanese, Chinese and New Zealand markets, with exports worth $7.5 billion over the past year, the minister added.
“There is a clear political will to support the export sector,” said Karim Abu Ghali, a member of the Food Export Council. Abu Ghali, who founded one of Egypt’s major pasta producers, said his company exports to Africa but delays in receiving export subsidies had affected the size of the exports.
If the date of the reimbursement of the subsidies was known, this could increase exports by at least 30 per cent in the food sector, Abu Ghali said. Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait said in December that some LE42.5 billion in export support has been provided to 2,500 exporting companies since 2019.
Abu Ghali also stressed the need for a vision and programmes on the ground to help exporters expand their exports.
Chairman of the Haya Association Mohsen Al-Beltagi said that the association, which supports agricultural exports, was working on transferring technology to farmers. This had improved quality as shipments of strawberries were no longer being returned after being exported due to their increased quality, he added.
The association also focuses on training engineers and technicians on pollination, fertilisation, and harvesting operations.
Ali Al-Gemayel, the managing director of an agricultural production company, said that the target of $100 billion in exports was the goal the country was trying to reach. But before looking at the numbers, the government needed to look at what the world wants, as there may be even greater opportunities.
The country needed to develop new varieties of crops and consider factors like the services that can be provided to export these products, whether in shipping or in packaging materials, Al-Beltagi said.
It is important that Egyptian products are marketed properly abroad, he added.
Deputy head of the agricultural crop sector at the ministry Tarek Abu Bakr said that exporters should keep in touch with their clients to ensure that they are catering for their needs and that their export products reach the highest international standards.
This would help to ensure customer satisfaction and increase exports, he added.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly