Egypt:Agriculture min. tells Italy to re-open green corridor

Abu Hadid, promising sector. Water, birth control top priorities

07 October, 14:30

    Wheat field in Egypt Wheat field in Egypt

    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - ROME, OCTOBER 7 - Rationalizing water resources, promoting producer cooperatives, training, introducing genetically modified organisms and birth control were among the priorities listed by Egypt's Agriculture Minister Ayman Farid Abu Hadid who is in Rome Monday to attend the 40th annual meeting of the Committee for Food Security of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). 'With a birth rate of 2 million newborns a year, Egypt is unable to feed a population of about 90 million inhabitants', the minister said.

    Agriculture is a strategic sector for the Egyptian economy, representing 40% of national GDP and employing 30% of the population. It is 'a very promising sector also for investments', Abu Hadid told ANSAmed. The minister is scheduled to meet his Italian counterpart Nunzia De Girolamo on the sidelines of the event.

    'Our objective is to re-launch Italian investments in Egypt and resume talks on the Green corridor', he said. Launched in 2010, the Green Corridor pilot project should have involved the ports of Venice, Civitavecchia and Naples to help Egypt expand its fruit and vegetable exports towards Italy and then Europe.

    The project was also aimed at opening up the Egyptian market to Italian produce. But the project was never developed.

    A professor and researcher at the country's agricultural research centre which he chaired for five years, Abu Hadid was appointed agriculture minister for a second mandate last July.

    He was first appointed in January 2011 after Mubarak's ouster.

    The situation has not improved over the past two and a half years. On the table are issues ranging from the water emergency to a rise in production, plans to develop land from the desert, subsidies. 'The first concrete problem I had to confront was the lack of fertilizers', he said. 'Fertilizers are exported by Egyptian producers on foreign markets as they can be sold at a higher price than in the domestic market. This has raised domestic prices and reduced available stocks'.

    A key issue is being able to change perceptions, first and foremost of producers 'who need to join forces and work in a system of cooperation'. The population also needs to change its state of mind. 'The population's annual growth is staggering and the system cannot bear it', the minister said. 'Only education can change things'.

    Another important issue is training the workforce in the genetic engineering of production, he noted as 'in a number of crops, like rice, flour or sugarcane we have reached the maximum level of productivity per hectare'.

    Among the projects left behind by the Morsi presidency is the construction promoted by Addis Abeba of a dam which will reroute the Blue Nile and questions a 1959 treaty on water exploitation. 'The issue has been dealt with in a very superficial manner', said the minister concluding that 'the road is cooperation and negotiations. Building a dam and a number of channels is very expensive. Exploiting rainwater and underground water is much less costly'. (ANSAmed)

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