The Ministry of Agriculture debunked reported statements that the cabinet is currently preparing an alternative agricultural plan to adjust to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) inauguration.
The new strategy bans the export of rice and limits the space of rice fields to 700,000 acres instead of 1.1 million acres, limiting agriculture’s water consumption. The strategy also aims to increase the number of plastic greenhouse fields, treat sewage water, and develop field irrigation tools to increase water efficiency.
Ministry spokesperson, Eid Hawash, told Daily News Egypt that the plan has nothing to do with the GERD, but that it rather focuses on averting effects of the current water shortage crisis, as well as effects of climate change.
“Egypt’s water share used to be 55.5 billion cubic metres (BCM)/year for only 20 million citizens. Now, after population rates increased throughout the years, the water share has not increased,” he said.
According to Hawash, this share will not be affected by the GERD construction, which will be complete by October 2017. However, he said the ministry is currently undertaking a set of pre-emptive measures, with the cabinet’s plan to ban rice planting among them.
“Exporting rice means exporting water,” he illustrated, noting that this also applies for sugar cane, a highly water-consuming plant. “There is a wide gap between consumption and production rates,” Hawash further highlighted.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi mandated that the Minister of Agriculture head a governmental delegation from different ministries to work on a new national mega project for the establishment of 100,000 plastic greenhouses. The delegation will reportedly visit European countries to gain the know-how of cultivating these houses.
Egypt is one of the world’s largest food importers, according to a 2014 study by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. By the year 2020, water requirements will most likely increase by 20% (15 BCM/year). The agricultural imports bill in the country has rapidly increased putting a substantial burden on the country’s foreign exchange resources.
Climate changes are one of the main threats affecting agricultural crops and overall food security in Egypt and the MENA region. Maize, rice, and wheat are among the top crops to be affected by severe climate change in Egypt, according to a study by United States Aid in 2013.