Following the drought in Russia, Egypt’s resultant shortage of wheat, and high summer temperatures throughout the Middle East, the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry is taking steps to avert another potential wheat shortfall.
Faced with a population of at least 83 million people for whom wheat is a staple, Egypt is planning to increase its yield with a more resilient seed. In order to do so, it will require 3.1 million hectares, of which 50% will be managed by the government, while private enterprises will cover the rest. The question is where?
Egyptians consume 14 million tons of wheat each year, according to a report published by IRIN earlier this year, but is only capable of producing 60% of that. The country is also the world’s largest wheat importer. So when the Russian drought forced that government to withhold exports in August, Egypt panicked.
In September, the country signed an agreement with Sudan whereby private Egyptian companies would grow crops in the Al-Gejira region south of Khartoum.
The IRIN report claims that Egypt has only 1.26 million hectares with which to play, and that the agreement with Sudan would expand that collective plot up to 2.1 million hectares.
Sources close to the Egyptian government told Almasry Alyoum that the government plans to cultivate 3.1 million hectares of a variety of wheat that will better sustain pending climate changes.
The Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaja has commissioned a report on the current cold snap and upcoming summer, which is expected to be even hotter than 2010, that will determine to which extent wheat crops will be affected.
To assuage any concerns about what kind of crops might be considered to boost local supply, the Agricultural Development Bank that supervises wheat supplies promised that any new developments will accord with ministry standards.
Last year Egypt backtracked on a commitment to keep genetically modified foods out of the country. Faced with the possibility that the country’s population could swell to 100 million by 2021, and challenging climate changes, no doubt the idea of a new and improved superpower wheat has crossed their minds.
At least, this is something to watch out for.
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image courtesy of mr.bologna
Image of ancient Egyptian wheat mill via eviljohnius