Earlier on Saturday, the president inaugurated the mega project located along Cairo’s Dabaa Axis Highway in the country’s north-west, which is part of the New Delta Development Project aiming to maximise local agricultural production.
He called for expediting the implementation of the project and finalising the remaining phases by 2023 in tandem with the other agricultural projects the state launched in Toshka, Beni Suef, and Minya, especially amid the current global circumstances.
The new mega-project aims to reclaim over one million feddans, with the aim of bridging the gap between production, import, and achieving food security and self-sufficiency of strategic commodities, especially amid the recent global crises.
The four-stage project will contribute to providing several agricultural crops needed in the country, including wheat, Project Director Bahaa El-Ghannam said during a presentation he gave during the inauguration ceremony.
El-Ghannam said the project will cover 1,050,000 feddans by its last phase, representing nearly 50 percent of the New Delta Project, which he expects will realise “an unprecedented” leap, not only in agriculture and industry, but also in several other fields nationwide.
The first phase of the four-stage project has been fully implemented over an area of 34,000 feddans, El-Ghannam said, adding that, based on the original timeframe, the second phase will be completed in October over an area of 300,000 feddans.
The third and fourth phase will be complete by July 2023 and July 2024, respectively, covering an area of 700,000 feddans, according to the director.
El-Ghannam then asserted that El-Sisi’s new directives to accelerate the execution process will be put into consideration.
The project boasts modern agricultural and irrigation systems and optimum management of energy and water resources, guaranteeing the high-quality agricultural production.
As was done with the first phase, the country still has to establish the necessary infrastructure before cultivating the targeted area of land in the coming phases, the director said.
The project, which is located along the El-Dabaa Axis — one of the recently overhauled roads in the country’s national road network — is situated near export ports, airports, industrial areas, and a number of main roads and axes.
Given the project’s proximity to the Rod El-Farag and El-Dabaa highways, the transfer and access of agricultural products from its lands to all areas countrywide will be easier and thus will be “a huge addition” to the Egyptian economy, El-Ghannam added.
The project seeks to reduce the bill of Egypt’s agricultural imports, which hovers around $8 billion, said El-Ghannam, adding that it aims to cultivate 600,000 tonnes of wheat in 2022 and around one million tonnes in 2023.
Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, relies on wheat to produce bread — a key staple of the Egyptian diet — with 80 percent of its wheat imported from Russia and Ukraine.
The country is now attempting to diversify its wheat imports due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which has disrupted supply chains of wheat from Black Sea ports to the Middle East and North Africa.
Furthermore, the project is expected to cultivate other key food products, such as corn and sugar beet.
Egypt imports corn at a total cost of $2.5 billion per year, he indicated.
He added that the Egypt’s Future Project targets planting about 40,000 feddans in 2022 to produce 120,000 tonnes of corn, 70,000 feddans in 2023 to harvest 220,00 tonnes, and 150,000 feddans to source 450,000 tonnes in 2024.
Furthermore, El-Ghannam noted that Egypt consumes up to three million tonnes of sugar beets, importing around 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes.
He also said that Egypt is close to achieving self-sufficiency in sugar beet, adding that the new project will be representing 65 percent of the mechanised cultivation of sugar beets.
El-Sisi said cultivating desert lands like these on which the project is being implemented costs the state much higher than cultivating anywhere else in the Nile Delta, where lands are originally cultivable.
However, over the past several years, people constructed buildings on the lands located along the Nile bank.
El-Sisi said these buildings should have been constructed in the country’s hinterland to save the arable lands and spare the country the cost of the reclamation process.
“The state is currently paying the price for each measure it has not taken [to prevent building encroachment on the Nile banks] … I am taking about 40-50 years ago,” he said.
The estimated cost of reclaiming one million feddans was EGP 200-250 billion three years ago, El-Sisi noted, expecting the cost to be much higher now given the current global economic crisis.
Egypt has cultivated lands along the old Nile Delta over the past 400-500 years, and we now want to cultivate the desert lands along the New Delta within four or five years, he added.
“This is a massive undertaking.”
Projects examined by experts
Furthermore, the president said on Saturday that the development projects being implemented across the country were already reviewed by a committee of high-profile experts, including university professors and statesmen.
He added that due to infrastructure projects implemented over the past seven years, the country managed to secure the needed electricity for such an important project, after the widespread power outages that it experienced in years prior.
The newly inaugurated project requires 1,250 megawatts to run, he said, indicating that the New Delta project is aiming to cultivate an extra 2.5 million feddans, representing 25 percent of the currently cultivated lands in Egypt.
He assured that the state’s measures require deep understanding and many studies that would help determine the feasibility and future plans of the project, adding: “I am saying that because many people may ask why the county must pay this cost.”
“The country’s population has increased by 20 million in the last ten years,” El-Sisi said, noting that the country should secure its need for strategic commodities.
“I am talking about state planning. So, we don’t have another choice,” he explained.
Commenting on calls for re-setting the country’s priorities and focusing on the education sector instead of spending on infrastructure projects, El-Sisi said education is a top priority, but would people bear the lack of infrastructure and services and — instead of developing them — directing the country’s “limited” resources to the education sector for around 14 years.