By: Samar Samir
Sun, Jun. 21, 2020
CAIRO - 21 June 2020: The Egyptian government boosted the investment funds for the agriculture and irrigation sector in the new fiscal year 2020/2021, with an increase of 2 percent, to enhance the state’s food security and rationalize the food imports, amid the crisis of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
Minister of Planning Hala al-Saeed has referred the ministry’s plan aimed at injecting LE 34.5 billion (about $ 2.1 billion) in the 2020/2021fiscal year budget estimated at LE 1.73 trillion, compared with LE 33.9 billion in the previous year, to the Egyptian House of Representatives for the discussion, according to a statement by the Ministry of Planning on Saturday.
The five-pillar plan aims at increasing the cultivated area of wheat by about 200,000 feddans (one feddan equals 1.037 acres) in 2021, bringing the total cultivated area to 3.6 million feddans.
Egypt is the largest wheat importer in the world as it purchased 13.020 million tons of wheat compared to 12.410 million tons in 2018 from Russia, Romania, Ukraine, France, and other countries, according to a statement issued by the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) in February 2020.
Meanwhile, the government will purchase 3.6 million tons of wheat this season. The African country’s consumption is expected to reach up to 20 million tons in FY 2019/2020, according to a report by the FAO and the USDA in September 2019.
The plan targets the expansion of oil crops cultivation (soybeans - sunflower - peanuts) to more than 220,000 feddans due to the low levels of self-sufficiency of such crops. Egypt imports oil products with LE 25 billion annually, according to a governmental report published by al-Masry al-Youm newspaper in January 2020.
The third pillar of the plan aim at improving the productivity of sugary crops (without increasing the cultivated areas of sugar cane), while the fourth target is to expand sugar beet plantations in the range of 40,000 feddans-600,000 feddans.
Increasing the self-sufficiency levels of the strategic agricultural crops is the fifth aim of the government, amid the increasing population and high consumption that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, the Ministry of Supply announced that Egypt will build new giant stores for basic commodities across the country to achieve self-sufficiency for 8-9 months instead of 6 months after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi directed the government to increase the commodities to face the COVID-19 repercussions.
In an online session organized by the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and attended by Egypt Today, Agnes Kalibata, special envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, called on the government to double the investments in agriculture when it comes to the food security system in the coming 10 months.
"There is a need to increase and double the investments in agriculture,” Kalibata said, noting that food should be accessible for the communities in need.
The Ministry of Planning’s stimulus plan aims at boosting the agricultural economics to face coronavirus repercussions such as the lack of access of imported goods to Egypt, particularly the strategic commodities like wheat, due to the lockdown that has been imposed by most of the countries, professor of agricultural economics Mohamed Salem told Egypt Today.
“Although the increase is not huge, it enhances the rates of the self-sufficiency,” he said.