The agricultural sector is a major component of the Egyptian economy, which is why Egypt has placed agricultural development at the top of its priorities amid its endeavors to increase the contribution of the agricultural sector to the gross domestic product (GDP). Egypt wants to boost agricultural production towards meeting internal food needs, achieving self-sufficiency, and doubling the sector’s share in exports, allowing Egypt to restore its agricultural position in global markets and compete with global crops.
Towards this end, Egypt has implemented several national agricultural projects, including the 1.5 Million Feddan Project, the project of establishing 100,000 greenhouses, the development project in north Central Sinai, and the New Delta Project.
Additionally, the government announced initiatives to boost local production and focus on sustainable and green agriculture, which raised expectations of agriculture achieving a compound annual growth rate of 3.2 percent in the period from 2022 to 2027. Overall, Egypt aims to increase the share of agriculture in GDP to 12 percent and agricultural production by 30 percent by 2024.
I- Egypt’s Agricultural Sector
Agriculture is one of the key sectors of the Egyptian economy as it provides food for local consumption and contributes to foreign trade. While industrialization has received greater attention in recent years, Egypt is still largely dependent on agricultural production. According to the 2022 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, the agricultural sector accounts for 15 percent of GDP and 25 percent of Egypt’s workforce. Agriculture employs about 45 percent of women in the workforce. Notably, most agricultural activities in Egypt are controlled by smallholder farmers who number 25 million workers of the agricultural sector, and account for 60 percent of the rural population. The agriculture sector contributes about 18 percent of the total commodity exports. The following table shows the change in the total crop-producing and cultivated areas in Egypt.
Table 1: The change in the total crop-producing and cultivated areas in Egypt, 2016-2020 (feddans)
Source: Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS)
As shown in the above table, the total crop-producing area in Egypt has increased to 16.3 million feddans in 2019-2020, up from 16.2 million feddans in 2018-2019, i.e. an increase of 0.5 percent, and the cultivated area increased by 1.3 percent to reach 9.5 million feddans in 2019-2020, up from 9.3 million feddans in 2018-2019.
The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development announced objectives of the agricultural sector in the 2021-2022 development plan, which entailed increasing agricultural production at current prices to about EGP 1,118 billion, up from EGP 1,022 billion in 2020-2021, i.e. a growth rate of more than 9 percent, and increasing the agricultural GDP at current prices by 11 percent to reach about EGP821 billion in the year 2021-2022, up from about EGP 673 billion in 2019-2020 and EGP 740 billion in 2020-2021.
II- Major National Agricultural Projects
Despite the challenges facing the Egyptian agricultural sector, the government has implemented several projects geared towards enhancing the performance of the agricultural sector and creating job opportunities for young graduates by expanding the arable land through the reclamation of new areas to meet the food needs of a growing population. As such, the Egyptian government has begun to invest heavily in agriculture by adopting several presidential initiatives, including the 1.5 Million Feddan Project, the national project for developing Egypt’s countryside, the New Delta project, among others. Further, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development indicated that EGP 73.8 billion were allocated to agricultural investments in 2021-2022 (i.e. 5.9 percent of the total investments), relative to EGP 39.5 billion in 2019-2020 and EGP 43 billion in 2020-2021, an increase of 72 percent.
According to Egypt’s Projects Map, from 2021 and until now, several agricultural projects have been implemented, including the New Delta project, the project of upgrading and reactivating the soil analysis laboratory in Giza, the Silk Oasis project in Kharga, Al-Maghrah plant for mechanized agriculture to serve 1.5 million feddans, the Agricultural Extension Center in Matrouh Governorate, the cultivation of 31,000 feddans in South Sinai, the agricultural services complex in Al-Marashda, the cultivation of 15,000 feddans with jojoba trees in the New Valley, and the national project for the production of seeds and seedlings. Examples of major national projects that Egypt implemented include:
- The National Seed Project: This project is being implemented in partnership with a number of foreign companies with the aim of supporting the agricultural sector, raising the productive efficiency of Egyptian crops, and producing high-quality seeds that resist pests and climate change, towards achieving self-sufficiency of seeds. In this vein, a total of 25 varieties of vegetable and fruit seeds, among others, have been registered in the project.
- The 1.5 Million Feddan Project: The project aims at creating a model for Egypt’s modern countryside, in order to increase the agricultural land by 20 percent, reduce the food gap, and create promising investment opportunities in various fields, including the reclamation of agricultural land and the establishment of projects targeting the food industries. The project covers large areas, concentrated in Upper Egypt, Sinai, the Delta, and the South Valley. Eight governorates were chosen to be included in the project, namely Aswan, Minya, Matrouh, New Valley, Qena, Ismailia, Giza, and South Sinai, due to their proximity to the national road network, urban areas, and communication lines between the governorates.
- The Project of Establishing 100,000 Greenhouses: The project is being implemented in cooperation with external stakeholders. It targets establishing integrated development agricultural communities and providing 300,000 job opportunities in the targeted reclamation areas. The project was initiated on an area of 100,000 feddans, in 7 different areas, chosen based on the distribution of the National Land Reclamation Project. These areas are: West Minya, West of Western Minya, Al-Maghrah, Sinai, Al-Marashda 1, Al-Marashda 2, and Halaib and Shalateen. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the cost of the first phase of the project is estimated to reach EGP 40 billion.
- Development of North and Central Sinai: According to the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, the project targets reclaiming and cultivating 400,000 feddans on the waters along El-Salam Canal (Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah Canal) in North Sinai, towards creating a new and integrated development industrial and agricultural community. About 56,500 feddans have been cultivated in areas El-Tina Plain and south of Qantara East on the waters of Al-Salam Canal, and about 13.5 thousand feddans were cultivated in the areas of Rab’a and Bir El Abd on the groundwater.
- The New Delta Project: The project is located near the old delta and the road network and ports, whether sea, land or air. It comprises two projects, Mostaqbal Misr [The future of Egypt] and the south of the Dabaa axis projects. Mostaqbal Misr project is spread over an area of 500,000 feddans and is located along the road of the Rawd Al-Faraj-Dabaa axis –a road that was built within the National Roads Project. The project also includes an internal 200-km electricity network, and with a primary and feeder 500-km road network.
The project to reclaim 500,000 feddans south of the Dabaa axis is located west of Mostaqbal Misr project, and it links the administrative borders of the Matrouh, Beheira, and Giza governorates. The project spreads on an area of 500,000 feddans, more than 90 of which is arable for strategic crops, primarily wheat, yellow corn, legumes, vegetable crops, and various types of fruits. Additionally, a giant treatment plant will be established with a capacity of 6 million m3 /day to treat agricultural wastewater for further reuse.In short, agriculture has always been a key pillar of the Egyptian economy; however, in the wake of the disruption of global supply chains and the rise in prices of global agricultural commodities due to the successive crises of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian war, the sector has gained renewed relevance locally and the state worked to enhance production through policy reforms that are based on research and technologies to achieve food security. Further, the government developed a clear vision for the future of the agricultural sector in Egypt, a vision that is based on facing challenges and establishing agricultural projects with the aim of improving agricultural production and providing job opportunities on the one hand, and establishing logistic areas and developing urban areas on the other, towards creating an integrated and sustainable environment in accordance with Egypt’s Vision 2030.