The Ministry of Agriculture has agreed with the National Service Products Organization (NSPO) to offer a number of basic commodities, meat products, and poultry through 353 outlets nationwide at fixed prices, which fall 30% below the market price.
Essam Fayed, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, told Al Borsa in an interview that the ministry has begun to implement its plan for the reform of the production system and marketing of Egyptian cotton. He explained that a new policy has been put in place to rely on the application of all the technical recommendations that would increase production and improve quality attributes.
What is the ministry’s plan to provide good and safe food to citizens at affordable prices?
The ministry is working to provide all basic goods and products through outlets and mobile refrigerated vehicles spread across the governorates. The goods are offered at prices 30% less than the market price. This includes fruit and vegetables, as well as imported and local meat.
There are 353 outlets nationwide. We are coordinating with NSPO and the Ministry of Supply to avoid focusing on certain areas to ensure reaching the largest number of citizens.
What about the ministry’s plan to resolve the recurring rice crisis?
We agreed with the Ministry of Irrigation to allocate 700,000 feddans next year, according to domestic needs, and provide seeds and short-lived water-apathetic species to all farmers, to make sure of sustaining water resources.
Did the ministry pen a plan to solve its problems with Egyptian cotton?
Some 33,000 feddans have been cultivated with cotton this season under the technical and scientific supervision of the Agricultural Research Center in Upper and Lower Egypt. This means we can cultivate over 400,000 feddans of different cotton breeds next season.
The Cotton Researches Institute has succeeded in developing three new varieties of cotton: Giza 94, Giza 95, and Giza 96. They are all highly productive, early in maturity, and with high net ginning.
Furthermore, the ministry is ongoing with its plan to fix the production and marketing system of Egyptian cotton. We aim to restore its renowned quality and popularity. We also follow all technical recommendations to increase production and maintain a higher quality.
The cotton development scheme aims to eliminate the problem of mixing Egyptian cotton and to introduce new varieties. We issued Law 4 of 2015 that excludes certain types of cotton from the Free Trade Agreement Law 210 of 1994. Moreover, a ministerial decree was given to ban moving cotton between governorates without the consent of the ministry.
Will contract farming become the solution to crop marketing problems?
We issued the Contract Farming Law to enable farmers to market their harvest before even planting the seeds. The ministry activated the law through establishing a Contract Farming Centre to carry out this role. There will also be an arbitration centre for conflicts that may arise among producers and merchants. The bylaws are being set up for implementation next season.
What is the ministry’s plan to open export markets for agricultural crops?
Egypt exports all crops, especially vegetables and many fruits. Agriculture exports have been increasing through opening new markets, such as the United States, Indonesia, east Asia, and Russia, as well as increasing exports to China. This follows the process of adjusting quality controls and improving the quarantine authority system. We aim to lift our exports from EGP 4bn to EGP 5bn this year.
The most significant crops, which have seen a boom in exports, are citrus fruits, grapes, and potatoes.
How are the projects for the electronic system for agricultural land possession and health insurance for farmers moving along?
We completed the agricultural land possession cards, instead of all the traditional paperwork in collaboration with the ministries of military production, communication, and planning. This aims to provide farmers with their production requirements without manipulation.
The Health Insurance Act for farmers comes to their care not only for agriculture, but for their personal health issues, too.
What is the ministry’s plan to provide inputs for small farmers and confronting the black market for fertilisers and pesticides?
We, for the first time, have eliminated the shortage in the fertiliser market. All fertilisers are available and farmers are buying them. We are currently intensifying our raids on smuggled and bad pesticides and fertilisers. We trained 130 agricultural inspectors, out of 500, with the right to use judicial permission to arrest violators to erode the smuggling of pesticides.
The Ministry of Agriculture conducts daily raids with the Water Surfaces & Environment Police to find offenders and refer them to prosecution.
How did the ministry overcome the fertilisers problem during the summer season? And what is the plan to provide winter fertilisers?
The Ministry of Agriculture is working to provide fertilisers for all peasants in various provinces through a contract with the state-owned factories to hand over all production to the ministry. Moreover, 65% of production from private factories is supplied to the ministry.
What is the ministry’s role in the 1.5m feddans projects, after transferring ownership to El-Reef El-Masry company?
El-Reef El-Masry Company is now in charge of the project. We had earlier prepared studies for the project, including structures of cropping and analysis of soil and water. We put three scenarios for each area.
Where does the project stand now? And when will the first phase of lands be offered?
This land is the mandate of the ministry represented by the General Authority For Reconstruction Projects & Agricultural Development (GARPAD). Once the company is established, it will announce terms of reference (TORs) and begin offering first-phase lands, which is of half a million feddans.
There have been doubts about the feasibility of the project concerning adequate groundwater. Is this the main reason for the delayed launch?
The Ministry of Agriculture is leading a giant project called the Development of Irrigation Field Projects in Old Land, funded by the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. We are currently developing 35,000 feddans as a first phase that will be concluded this year in Beheira, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Beni Suef, Minya, Sharkia, and Dakahliya.
We are working on covering drains and canals, so the water can enter fields in a pipe-like manner and be distributed. This will provide about 10bn cubic metres of water and cover 10% of the land area.
Old irrigation took place through flooding lands, which would leak the water. The projects targets 5m feddans in the Delta and the Valley.
When will the second tender for the state-recovered lands take place?
We will hold other tenders in the coming period to sell the first batch of recovered lands through the Recover the Looted State Land Committee, headed by Ibrahim Mehleb. The area is of 37,000 feddans.
The auction includes the sale of lands in Wadi Natroun, Beheira, and the Cairo—Alexandria Desert road. The first auction processed EGP 160m for 820m feddans.
What is the current position of the Egyptian-Kuwaiti Company that obtained 26,000 feddans in Al-Ayyat?
GARPAD has sent the file to the cabinet. There have also been negotiations between the company and the government to pay the state its dues.
How much is the local production of wheat? Who is responsible for the receipt system? And will this year’s crisis affect next season?
Production is about 8m tonnes. The Ministry of Supply is responsible for receiving wheat. I do not think that the supply problem will affect the wheat cultivated areas. To farmers, wheat is a very basic good to meet their demands of bread and feed livestock.