Egypt has a long tradition of using mineral fertilizers, its first use of Chilean nitrates dating back to 1902. For over thirty years, all mineral fertilizers were imported, until the local production of phosphate fertilizers started in 1936. The production of nitrogen fertilizers began in 1951. No potash fertilizers are produced in Egypt due to the lack of resources, although it was reported recently that some local potash deposits had been found.
The demand for food and other agricultural commodities is increasing in Egypt due to the increase in the population and improvements in living standards. Efforts continue to improve crop productivity and quality. The breeding of new high yielding varieties and the development of better agricultural practices are some of the measures aimed at increasing agricultural production to meet the increase in demand.
Appropriate fertilization is one of the most important agricultural practices for achieving the objectives. Evaluation of the best source of nutrients, optimum rates of fertilization, suitable timing and proper fertilizer placement are necessary for efficient fertilizer management.
In Egypt, there are several traditional practices that are commonly implemented and which play a major role in restoring and maintaining soil fertility. Among these practices are:
Planting berseem clover as a winter fodder crop before the cotton crop, providing a green manure by ploughing in after taking one or two cuts.
Incorporating farm yard manure (FYM) into the soil during seedbed preparation. This is usually done before an important cash crop such as cotton is planted.
Including in the crop rotation a legume crop such as: faba bean, clover and soybean, which have a positive effect on soil fertility and provide part of the nitrogen requirement.
Source: MALR, 2003.
Efforts are being made to increase the composting of agricultural residues as a source of plant nutrients, as a contribution to improvement of the physical properties of the soil and protection of the environment.
Improvements in product quality and production efficiency, either already achieved or planned, permit the domestic industry to compete successfully with most fertilizer imports. Figure 4 provides details of the production, imports, exports and consumption of fertilizers in the period between 1998 and 2002.
Urea is produced domestically and part of this production is exported. For example, in 2002 total domestic production of urea was five million tonnes of which 23 percent was for export and 77 percent for the domestic market.
The main types of fertilizers used are:
urea (46.5 percent N)
ammonium nitrate (33.5 percent N)
ammonium sulphate (20.6 percent N)
calcium nitrate (15.5 percent N)
single superphosphate (15 percent P2O5)
concentrated superphosphate (37 percent P2O5)
potassium sulphate (48 to 50 percent K2O)
potassium chloride (50 to 60 percent K2O)
Mixed and compound fertilizers containing N, P, K, Fe, Mn, Zn and/or Cu in different formulations for either soil or foliar application. The micronutrient may be in either mineral or chelate form.