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27/06/2013

Boosting private-public sector cooperation to strengthen Egypt's Food Security : Unlocking Egypt's agricultural potential

Unlocking Egypt’s agricultural potential was the focus of a two-day, high-level forum “Private Sector for Food Security: Improving the Investment Climate in Egypt’s Agribusiness Sector” which ended in Cairo today.

Organised by FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), in collaboration with Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the forum brought together policy-makers, investors and representatives of international financial institutions to discuss ways to increase the efficiency of Egypt’s agricultural sector and reduce its food trade deficit.

All participants agreed that the private sector – bolstered by cooperation with the public sector – has a crucial role in improving food security in Egypt. In a joint Letter of Intent, FAO, the EBRD and the Ministry acknowledged “the importance of the agriculture sector”, and expressed their commitment to continue to strengthen their cooperation “to engage in transparent, long-term and predictable policies.” “Stepping up investment in Egypt’s agricultural sector is of vital importance, considering the country’s dependence on food imports,” said Gilles Mettetal, EBRD’s Director for Agribusiness.“The EBRD can help mobilise investment from the private sector, taking its share of the risks and capitalising on its experience in the transition region.”

Considerable challenges

The challenges are considerable. Annual losses of fresh fruit and vegetables through poor storage capacity are significant. 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. Investing in storage and port handling facilities, developing new instruments to facilitate access to credit, and reviewing existing import and trade policies could reduce waste and decrease Egypt’s grain import bill significantly.

In the meat sector, important investments are needed not only to boost the sustainability and the profitability of production but also to limit sanitary risks and enhance food safety and quality standards.

However, unleashing Egypt’s potential will ultimately also depend on creating the right conditions of transparency, good governance and rule of law for private sector investment.

Through the forum, FAO and the EBRD initiated an active dialogue between public authorities and the private sector that resulted in the establishment of a permanent public-private platform on agricultural investment.

Making a difference

“FAO is convinced that private sector investment can make a difference not only in strengthening the efficiency of how Egypt’s agriculture uses scarce natural resources but also in terms of competitiveness,” said Abdesallam Ould Ahmed, FAO’s Assistant Director-General/Regional Representative for the Near East. “We will continue to work with the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture to step up dialogue between the private sector and public authorities on creating a supportive policy and regulatory environment.” With such a platform Egypt may be able to move towards a sustainable long-term approach to tackling food security concerns.

This will also provide a boost to existing, promising developments. For example, export revenues from fresh produce have increased 240 percent in five years to over US$ 2 billion and the sector is an important source of rural employment. The conference attracted high-level regional and international agribusiness representatives, government bodies and international financial institutions, and provided an opportunity to engage in dialogue, revisit policies and identify investments along key value chains, with special focus on the horticultural, grain, meat and dairy sectors.

Civil society was represented was engaged through associations representing agro-industries and producers, notably the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association, the Egyptian Junior Business Association and the Chamber of Food Industries. The forum was organised with funding from the EBRD’s southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Multi-Donor Account (MDA).

Donors to the SEMED MDA include Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.