Agribusiness

Egypt is notorious for being one of the oldest agricultural civilizations thanks to the River Nile which has allowed a sedentary agricultural society to develop for thousands of years, one which is accountable for approximately 13% of Egypt’s GDP today. Egyptian agriculture is almost entirely dependent on irrigation since 90 % of Egypt is comprised of desert. Total agricultural land base is around 3.5 million hectares (8.4 million feddans) which represents about 3.5% of the total area of the country.

The climatic differences between north and south have some impact on the geographical distribution of crops, for example, humidity in the Delta suits long-staple cotton, whereas the drier, hotter climate of the south favors the planting of sugarcane, onions, and lentils. The Egyptian agribusiness sector is composed mainly of ten product groups: milk and dairy products, oils and oil by-products, beverages, drinks and bottled water, fruit and vegetable products, confectionary and chocolates, meats, poultries and fish, specialty food and food additives, grinding and flour, and the rice polishing and pasta industry.

The majority of agribusiness exports are targeted towards the Arab world with the leading export destinations being Saudi Arabia and Libya, succeeded by the European Union then Turkey and Iran.

This year alone, the Ministry of Agriculture has allocated 500 million pounds for agricultural projects, as well as creating a new agricultural policy for the state, which is geared towards revamping old plots of land in the Valley and the Delta, as well as exploiting the new reformed lands. In total, the Ministry of Agriculture is looking to reform 4 million feds of land in Egypt by 2030. This in turn has the potential to employ thousands of youths and allow the country to be self-sufficient for wheat, maize, sugar, dairy and cheese. Additional actions within the proposed plan include phasing out subsidies on chemical fertilizers while redirecting the same financial incentives to small farmers. This is to be accomplished by increasing the prices of chemical fertilizers and using the profits to finance small farmers’ cooperatives.

Agricultural Commodities

Year Comparison

2012

2013 2014 2015

2016

Exports (Total Countries)

2494.414

2795.871 2907.302 2925.946

2809.32

Imports (Total Countries)

8311.196

7520.941 7994.217 7206.918

5462.74

 

Source: Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics

Areas for Investment 

1 | Food Processing Sector

Products which fall under the ‘processed foods’ category include vegetables, dairy products, juices, olives, meat and chicken, semi cooked meals, water, in addition to soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Egypt’s export of processed foods has increased by 57.6% (from 92 to 145 million US$ in six years) and the country now ranks 17th in the world, and the 3rd in the region for the manufacturing of processed foods. Furthermore, the domestic market is estimated to grow at more than 20% a year, opening up opportunities for new products to help satisfy the growing demand.

Several government authorities regulate this industry, the most authoritative of which is the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality Control of the Ministry of Industry, which issues industrial quality control certificates for the food processing industry. In addition, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade also enforce stringent shelf life standards and product specifications for both processed food and agricultural products.

Any investment made within the food sector in Egypt is likely to be both stable and successful due to the ever expanding population of the country, and their growing demand for food.

2 | Machinery

Although Egypt has decades of agricultural experience, there is a constant requirement for new and improved machinery. Generally, there have been problems with the annual losses of fresh fruit and vegetables through poor storage capacities. With investment in processing, handling, cold chains and upgrading of food safety and quality, the sector could help improve Egypt’s food security and agricultural trade balance. Additionally, investing in storage and port handling facilities could reduce waste in the country which would be beneficial for both investors and the people of Egypt.

There is also room for the introduction of more tractors into the Egyptian farming industry, as tractor distribution in the country is very fragmented. According to the World Bank Egypt ranks 36th of 147 in world tractor concentration, showing room for improvement within this particular market.

3 | Aquaponic Farms

Most of Egypt’s land is desert, leaving only the Nile Valley and Delta as suitable areas for agricultural ventures. Additionally, due to urbanization, much of the country’s cultivable land is now being taken over by large scale commercial complexes, or is covered in pesticides which deplete soil quality and pollute the Nile.

Faced with these challenges several aquaponics farm have been initiated in an effort to revolutionize farming within the country. Aquaponic farms are ideal for the hot Egyptian climate, and can be up to four times more efficient than regular farms which require fertile land. More and more farmers have therefore turned to this method of farming as it provides an innovative approach to cultivating fresh vegetables and fish in Egypt. Busan Aquaponics, the first farm of its kind in Egypt, now produces pesticide-free tilapia fish, lettuce, baby spinach, purple kale, swiss chard, celery, pakchoi, wild rocket, thyme and sage, after just two years in operation.

Despite the obvious potential this farming method offers, there are not many farms in the country which operate in this manner, and investors can take advantage of this. Unlike traditional farms, aquaponic farms can grow anywhere which provides an additional incentive for investors who will have an array of choices for project locations.

4 | Fisheries

As part of a governmental plan to revive the fishing market so that sea food can be purchased at affordable prices, several major projects have been initiated to create fisheries within the country. The overall aim of these projects, aside from employing over 5000 people per farm, is to farm fish locally and therefore reduce dependence on imports.

A number of massive projects have already been launched in Kafr El Sheikh across an area of 4000 feddans, and including an industrial zone, fodder, ice and packaging factories. To complement these, surrounding educational, research and residential areas have been opened near the area.

Since these projects are still under construction, opportunities exist for participation either in creating the fisheries, or in the supporting industries.

Advantages

Strong Historical Roots in the Industry: Agriculture has been practiced in the country since the dawn of Ancient Egypt, allowing national market players to perfect their portfolio of skills and procedures.

Availability of crops raw materials: Since agriculture already contributes to around 13% of Egypt’s GDP, many (if not all) of the raw materials required for the initiation of an agribusiness project are already available.

Diversity: A wide range of fruits and vegetables are already successfully being grown in the country, providing investors with an abundance of choice when deciding which sector of agribusiness they wish to participate in.

Climate: Egypt’s climate which allows for extended and extra growing seasons and significant groundwater resources make it particularly conducive to agribusiness projects. Especially beneficial to the sector is the ability to cultivate winter crops during the time when production is limited in Europe and North Asia, namely from November to May.

Location: Offering a region which is easily accessible from Europe, Africa and Asia, in addition to being situated on the Mediterranean, Egypt is ideally located for exporting agricultural products to all major consumer markets. The country’s geographic location makes exporting to Europe and the gulf simple and quick.

A Robust Infrastructure: Several years of planning for mega-farm projects in North Sinai and the Toshka region of Upper Egypt have resulted in extensive infrastructure and resources to help rapidly export to international markets. The availability of these well-established transportation mechanisms greatly reduces the start-up time needed to prepare future projects.

A Large Local Workforce: Egypt has the largest agribusiness workforce in the region, with an estimated 6 million workers, representing 30.2% of the country’s total labor force. Plans to further enhance productivity include construction of labour communities in close proximity to areas of cultivation as well as educational centers teaching workers how to use new technologies related to the field.

Critical Mass: Egypt has emerged as a destination of choice for multinationals looking to establish cost-effective production and exportation of agricultural products. Such companies have experienced the advantage of working with local farmers and the government to turn the Egyptian agribusiness sector into a worldwide producer and exporter. Partnerships would also enjoy an established infrastructure and workforce, as well as knowledge of the ins and outs of the local business climate. Further support can also be found through the abundance of packaging suppliers and marketing materials, as well as service companies which cater to the industry.

High Export Potential: The country’s food production industry is better developed than that in many neighboring states, creating countless export opportunities.

Ongoing Projects 

1 | Sustainable Agricultural Development

The Egyptian government has reclaimed 1.5 million feddans of land to house the ‘Sustainable Agricultural Development project 2030’, with the aim of promoting the sustainable use of natural agricultural resources, increasing the productivity of both land and water units, raising the degree of food security of the strategic food commodities, increasing the competitiveness of agricultural products in local and international markets, improving the climate for agricultural investment; and improving the living standards of the rural inhabitants, and reducing poverty rates in the rural areas. A number of key investors both foreign and domestic have contributed to the development of this project. Most recently, 26 Saudi companies were granted permission to obtain and develop 300 000 feddans, worth tens of billions of pounds, and the door is still open for interested entrepreneurs to contribute.

2 | Western Egypt Development Project

This project is being initiated in the Matrouh Governorate with the aim of creating a large complex of fisheries, as well as a commercial port, passengers quay, economic and tourist centers, urban agglomerations, logistics center, and an industrial zone. The total size of the area will be 250,000 feddans, and the associated costs for its opening will be around, $10 billion. The project will be executed in three phases and completed after 10 years, creating 25,000 direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect ones, in addition to providing leasing opportunities from investments.

3 | Agricultural Development Program

The Board of Trustees of the Agricultural Development Program approved the disbursement of 148 loans to support agricultural development programs and activities including importing and manufacturing tractors and drilling equipment, and harvesting wheat and corn. The loans are primarily aimed at assisting 454 small farmers, breeders, and the Agricultural Cooperative Association.