March 8, 2023


Egypt president encourages increase in oilseed crops cultivation




Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi recently called for the expansion of the cultivation of oilseed crops, pointing out that most of these can be used to manufacture food oil and as alternative ingredients in the feed of poultry and livestock.


Increasing the production of these crops will thus reduce imports of food oil from abroad and meet a larger portion of animal feed needs at home.


The presidential directive was a "step in the right direction," said Hussein Abu Saddam, chairman of the Farmers Syndicate, as it would support Egypt's farmers and help to fill the food gap.


"Egypt imports huge quantities of feed corn at nearly 50% of our annual requirements," Abu Saddam said, adding that this is the main ingredient in most animal feeds. "We also import 90% of our soybean needs, placing huge pressure on our budget and foreign currency reserves."


Abu Saddam pointed out that the cost of the feed contributes 50% of the price that farmers end up paying. The deficit in poultry feed is greater as it consists of both feed corn and soybeans and there are no other options. With livestock feed, the situation is better because there are alternatives that can be added to the mix, reducing the reliance on feed corn and soybeans.


According to Abdel-Raouf Al-Gohari, an expert on livestock production, cattle feed consists of about 50% corn feed and 30% soybeans. Any deficit in the local production of either of these crops has to be made up through imports as they are crucial to proper meat and dairy production.


The Toshka and East Uweinat regions are among the promising areas of the country for increasing the local production of these crops, he said, and they could also be used to cultivate sesame, sunflowers, beets and peanuts, all of which can be used to make up between 20-39% of feed mixes. Wheat bran, another local product, can also be used.


"Expanding the area of land allocated to wheat cultivation would support the manufacture of animal feed," Al-Gohari said. "Expanding the local production of feed ingredients would also maximise returns from the expansion in domestic livestock production due to the greater ratio of local inputs in these industries. This will help to keep prices steady and avert shocks due to international crises in trade or supply chains."


As part of its efforts to encourage farmers to expand their wheat production, the Ministry of Supply issued a decree in June 2022, saying that wheat farmers would receive a tonne of bran at subsidised rates for every ardab of wheat they deliver to the ministry's silos. The measure is intended to support both wheat farmers and small livestock farmers as bran makes up between 12-24% of cattle feed.


Oilseed crops that can be used to manufacture animal feed are classified as strategic crops, the Director of the Ministry of Agriculture's Poultry Production Division, Abdel-Aziz Al-Sayed, told Al-Ahram Weekly. This means that pre-contractual price guides are set ahead of the cultivation season, and farmers will receive no less than this rate when they deliver their crops.


If prices increase on the local and international markets during the harvest period, the new higher price will also be applied.


According to Al-Sayed, Egypt produces 20% of its feed corn and soybean needs and imports the rest. Poultry feed requires larger ratios of these ingredients than cattle feed, he said.


"Expanding the local production of these crops is the cheapest and securest way to meet annual domestic needs," Al-Sayed said, adding that the government has begun to carry out plans to expand the production of such crops in seven governorates through the application of the contractual system.


If the plans are carried out properly, they will increase domestic feed production by 45% by 2023, Al-Sayed said. The cultivation of these crops starts in April, which means that by August, there will already be additional quantities available for local feed production, which will also help to stabilise prices in the local market.


He added that the steps the government has had to take to avert a shortage in poultry will end in four months' time. "By that time, the sector will have recovered, and we won't have to import poultry again. The expansion of the cultivation of oilseed crops will bolster the stability and sustainability of the sector and minimise risks due to the impacts of global crises."


Ahmed Al-Okazi, director of the Regional Centre for Food and Feed (RCFF) at the Centre for Agricultural Research in Cairo, underscored the importance of precision and balance in the ratios of the ingredients that go into animal feed.


These are the ingredients that provide livestock and poultry with the proteins and nutrients they need for vital bodily functions. Deficient feed mixes diminish the animals' meat and dairy production as well as their reproductive capacities.


"Feed that is optimally composed to properly nourish and fatten the animals accounts for around three-quarters of the costs of poultry and livestock production or even slightly more," Al-Okazi said. This factor, combined with the impacts of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, water shortages and limited areas available for agriculture had led the Ministry of Agriculture to address the "feed gap" or deficit in the raw materials for animal feed.


"There are local alternatives that can go into the feed mixes for livestock, such as bran, rye, sorghum, bagasse, beetroot pulp and yeast industry residues," Al-Ozaki said. "But since all these are produced from crops, we also have to increase the cultivation of these in order to meet domestic demand."


This is why the Ministry of Agriculture has prioritised the contractual farming system for strategic crops, including those that contribute to feed production, in order to encourage farmers to expand their cultivation of wheat, corn and soybeans and thereby spare the hard currency used for imports.


Another advantage of the contractual system is that it ensures a reasonable minimum supply of crops while reassuring farmers that the prices they will receive on delivery will be around the prices observed on the international grain markets.


- Al-Ahram Weekly

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