High oil import costs led to opening the cultivation of oil crops’ file. Abdul Moneim El-Banna, Egyptian Minister of Agriculture, said that the ministry will pay a great deal of attention to oily crops during the coming period to reach a production of 25% of oil needs in the local market.
Agricultural experts and investors are betting on expanding in the cultivation of oil crops—such as olive, sunflower, corn, and peanuts—to fill the gap between production and consumption and to protect the market from the fluctuation of the global markets and the dollar exchange rate.
Raouf Tawfik, managing director of Dina Farms, said that the cost of cultivating a tonne of local corn is roughly EGP 3,300, which recently registered EGP 4,000, which motivates farmers to cultivate it.
He expected a quick jump in oil crops cultivated locally to benefit from the high economic revenue after increasing the cost of imports, which is the good side of the flotation of the pound on the long term.
Mostafa Al Wazeer, an agricultural investor, said that the price of oil palm seeds he imported from Malaysia at EGP 8 two years ago—for the cultivation of 500 experimental seeds—reached EGP 15 now, contrary to its low production costs due to not requiring labor.
The scientific research conducted by the National Research Centre proved the possibility of oil palms cultivation in the deserts; however, this sector hasn’t seen investments yet.
Al Wazeer added that oil palm productivity increases in the desert areas with high humidity, and thus will not affect the main crops’ cultivated spaces.
According to the statistics of the National Research Centre, the area of the feddan (1.038 acres) allows the cultivation of 26 palm trees at a distance of 10 metres, with an average productivity of a tonne of crude oil per feddan. The tree produces clusters, and each cluster weighs 25kg with 3,000 fruits.
Olive oil is the second-highest oil crop cultivated locally by 50%, and the productivity per acre varies between 3 and 3.5 tonnes.
Wael Ghaith, head of the North Sinai plant subsidiary of the Desert Research Centre, said that oil palm cultivation has not proved its success on the ground so far, which makes the private sector refuse to expand in order to avoid exposure to losses.
He pointed out that more than 60,000 of the governorate’s acres are oily seeds owned by small farmers, and the absence of private sector investments is clear. The average cost of production per acre is worth EGP 13,000, with productivity of 700 kg of olive oil, the one-tonne worth of which is $4,000.
The department of oil crop research called on farmers to expand the cultivation of sunflower seeds in order to meet the needs of the local market. The productivity average per acre is roughly a tonne of seeds at a ratio that exceeds 40%, and the oilcake (which contains a high percentage of protein) used in animal feed.
In the same context, Mohamed Shaaban, head of the 6th of October City’s Investors Association, called on the state to expand in the field of oil extraction from oil palms—in order to take advantage of low operation costs and ease the pressure on the dollar—and increase the number of oil extraction factories.