Egypt has an abundance of fertile agricultural lands and plenty of irrigation waters (Nile River, streams, rain waters and underground waters). The weather is favorable for the natural growth of various plants and different kinds of agricultural products (farm and horticulture).
However, the dependence on manual cultivation and the failure of the government and private agricultural projects reveals some fundamental flaws and problems:
- Nonuse of pivotal sprays and nonexploitation of underground waters for irrigation of plants in case of shortage of rainfall and during dry season.
- Absence of full mechanization in cultivation, fertilization, insecticides, harvesting, peeling, cleaning, and packing
- Lack of a plan for improvement of seeds and non-introduction of improved varieties of seeds.
There are also pessimistic forecasts. A report issued by the US Agriculture Department revealed that Egypt will have a problem importing wheat in 2016, when Saudi Arabia will finally stop wheat cultivation and rely on imports for its wheat requirements.
In the meantime, an Egyptian government report says that “water security” is under threat due to the increase in population.
The 55.5 billion cubic meter quota for Egypt from Nile waters in addition to the implemented water projects at a cost of 35 billion pounds in the past years will not prevent shortage of irrigation water by 2030 if the increase in population continues at the current rate.
One of the best solutions will be to establish a large stock agricultural company owned by Saudi and Egyptian investors.
One of the best solutions will be to establish a large stock agricultural company owned by Saudi and Egyptian investors. This will not take place unless the existing ownership law is amended. According to this law, the government sells one acre for 50 Egyptian pounds on the condition that the investor builds huge projects and employs thousands of people. This will create many direct employment opportunities for farmers as well as qualified and experienced graduates of agriculture colleges, particularly those returning from Saudi Arabia.
The investment in large agricultural projects will also boost the Egyptian economy. It will create new sources of income while the improvement in living standards will revive the populated areas near the agricultural projects and encourage service suppliers to enter these areas. This will facilitate the centralization of government services.
The settlement of a large number of people near the agricultural projects will curb the influx of migrants into big cities. The financial returns of these projects will surely lessen the impact of any economic crisis.
It is well known that introduction of agricultural mechanization will mean abundant production exceeding the local needs and providing surplus for export. This will lessen pressure on foreign currency.
Egypt needs huge companies for the best exploitation of available agricultural lands. But unfortunately, neither Egyptian citizens nor foreign investors have shown any enthusiasm toward the government initiative while the government itself has not made any promise to carry out huge projects in these areas.
In fact, the currently invested area represents only a small portion of the total fertile lands. In the meantime, there is food shortage and urgent need for wheat — the product Egypt imports in large quantities. This constitutes a burden on the foreign currency reserves. In addition to all these facts, the imported wheat is of inferior quality and — in some cases — not good for human consumption.
It is quite clear that given the availability of vast fertile agricultural lands, there is no justification for the continuous import of wheat and the pressure on foreign currency reserves. Therefore, it is necessary to make the best use of the qualified Egyptian cadres and resources in huge agricultural projects.
All obstacles to investment and land ownership should be removed if Egypt is to develop its agriculture. This task should not be assigned to the committees whose practices in the past have only discouraged local and international investors.
What happened to the Egyptian agriculture graduates’ agricultural lands is one of the tragedies attributed to these committees. These graduates were given barren lands at cheap prices. But once they reclaimed the lands by spending so much money on it, the committees asked them to pay new prices for the lands as if they were selling them reclaimed lands. The result is that the committees killed the graduates’ project and frightened the investors. This discouraged agricultural investments in Egypt.
Turki Faisal Al Rasheed
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