News Analysis: Egypt beefs up agricultural reclamation projects to secure food

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by Marwa Yahya

CAIRO, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Egyptian government is beefing up several mega-projects of agricultural reclamation around the country to secure food production, according to experts.

The nationwide projects would reclaim nearly three million feddans (12,504 square kilometers) of land in four years, which constitute about one third of the cultivated areas in Egypt, to secure the highest production of food crops.

The land reclamation include 500,000 feddans in North and Central Sinai province to the east of the capital, 1.5 million feddans in different rural areas, 500,000 feddans on Dabaa Axis in north western Egypt, and 300,000 feddans in Toshka, southern Egypt.

"Egypt's total cultivated area has climbed from 7.8 million feddans in 2000 to 9.4 million feddans now, but is still not enough compared to the over-growing population," Saad Nasaar, advisor to Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, said.

"We are sufficient in vegetables, fruits, rice, maize, medical and aromatic plant, poultry and fish, while deficient in sugar, oil, wheat and beef," he added.

Nassar referred to water as the main challenge for reclaiming land in Egypt, which needs 80 billion cubic meters annually, while its water resources only produce 60 billion.

"To tackle such difficult issue, Egypt gives priority to the projects of wastewater treatment," he noted.

In December 2021, Egypt inaugurated one of the world's largest wastewater treatment plant Bahr El Baqar, at a cost of 1.14 billion U.S. dollars. The plant, located on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, is expected to produce two billion cubic meters annually that will all go to the Sinai Peninsula.

Meanwhile, Egypt will establish another 5-billion-dollar water plant in northwest Egypt for producing six billion cubic meters of water for reclaiming the land in the New Delta region.

"Plans of agricultural expansion is the strategic solution to compensate for the land Egypt has lost in the Nile Valley and Delta," according to Shaker Arafat, chairman of state-run Food Technology Research Institute.

Egypt has lost around 400,000 acres of farmland since 1980 in its most fertile land in the Nile Valley and Delta due to urban expansion over the decades, according to official statistics.

Arafat said that Egypt has been working on enhancing its food security via expanding the agricultural land vertically and horizontally.

He said horizontal expansion means adding more agricultural gross land across the country, using artificial intelligence technology, and planting strategic crops like wheat, maize, grains and oilseeds crops to reduce the food gap between production and consumption.

While vertical expansion means reproducing new seeds that produce more crops, consume less water and cope with climate change fluctuations, according to Arafat. Enditem

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