By Her Excellency Dina el Sehy, Ambassador of Egypt to New Zealand
This speech was given at Diplosphere panel on Inflation, Food Insecurity and the Coming Global Food Order, 22 August, Wellington Club
Dear Maty, Dear Sudesh, Dear panellist, distinguished audience,
It is a pleasure and an honour to be here with you today and share some facts about the situation and food security in Egypt.
There is no doubt that, the world since 2020 is facing a challenge after the other, the pandemic hit badly the world economy and only when we started recovering, we witnessed the war between Russia and Ukraine and its bitter consequences from loss of innocent lives to an unprecedented increase of food prices, and a higher energy and fertiliser costs.
During the Pandemic Egypt managed to realise between 3 to 5% of GDP Growth in the time when the majority of the countries had a negative growth, (the fiscal year ending in June 2022 saw a real growth of 6,2%)… This equation has changed last March as we were severely hit by the war between Russia and Ukraine, 2 countries with whom Egypt has lots of ties and economic relations.
Egypt is counted as the largest importer of wheat worldwide. Wheat represents 40% of the food component of about 105 million Egyptians. To give you an idea the consumption of Egypt is about 22 million tons of wheat per year, where about 12 million tons are imported, 80% of which comes from Russia and Ukraine. In addition, Egypt imports about 2 million tons of sunflower oil, as well as 95% of its needs for cooking oils and 10 million tons of corn annually, which is used in the production of animal fodder.
An interruption of the supply chain in these commodities, uncertainty in the markets, the decision of some countries to ban food exports naturally led to a huge increase in the price of cooking oil, meat and poultry as a result of raise of cost of animal fodder and most importantly Price of Bread (the principal food on the table of the Egyptians for their 3 daily meals).
On the other hand, the hike in oil prices led to an elevated price of freight, a service still suffering from the pandemic and shoot the prices of all imported goods to the sky. In Egypt Inflation reached 14% in July, year on year, but the food prices saw a historic increase at 24.2% from the beginning of 2022. Some countries in our area suffer more as inflation in Turkey soar to 80% and Food price in Lebanon saw a hiking of 216%. Not talking about starving Africans specially in the horn of Africa due to the drought they are facing.
In light of these facts, the Egyptian government exerts significant efforts in order to face the challenges imposed by the current crisis. Some important measures have been adopted in order to facilitate the import of wheat from different countries, as well as relaxing usual requirements for wheat imports. We succeeded lately to secure 180 thousand tons of wheat from India putting our wheat strategic reserve to six months. We hope that the agreement of the grain shipping corridor would return some level of certainty to the global market and help controlling its prices and restore some level of food security in net food importing countries.
In Egypt, we have other factors that negatively affect the situation and deepen the impact of the current food crisis. Water scarcity, climate change , the steady population increase, as well as the lack of fund to finance modern technology related to sustainable agriculture. We added 250 thousand new born in the last 50 days.
In order to address the shortcomings of the current situation, we are working on several plans:
Increasing land reclamation efforts, as you know we live on the Nile valley which is 5% of the territory of Egypt, as the other 95% is desert.
Strengthening scientific research to increase productivity of agriculture crops.
Recycling agricultural waste, treating agricultural wastewater, and upgrading irrigation methods.
Developing the storage capacity of silos by enlarging existing ones and building new efficient ones.
Those plans to be implemented need the support of our development partners.
From a macro perspective, we believe in the global cooperation in the spirit of solidarity to support developing and least developed countries by adopting some measures including:
Countries with food surplus facilitating supply to Net Food Importing Countries, who recently have been suffering from a huge increase in their import bills of food commodities.
Removing all restrictions on the export of food commodities and increase market access.
Calling on countries to reduce their dependence on grains in the production of biofuels in order to limit the aggravation of the food crisis.
We are all in these together and we will get out together, The Covid 19 pandemic showed us that solidarity, non-discriminatory and equitable access to those commodities is the right way to do things.
Thank you again Maty for inviting me today to join those distinguish speakers, and I will be more than happy to answer any questions at a later stage.
Nga mihi nui.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Diplosphere's stance.