By Mohamed Abdel Monsef and Ahmed Salama
The 6 October Co. for Agricultural Products is undertaking what is considered to be one of the largest agricultural projects to reclaim desert lands in Egypt. The project extends 11 km along the Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road on an area of over 33 acres and represents the largest agricultural development project utilising Nile waters.
It is also considered to be the most important Libyan investment in Egyptian territory and is set to produce high-quality products, coming to account for 40% of Egypt’s potato and peanut exports. Other products produced will include wheat, oranges, peaches, and apricots.
Daily News met with the senior leadership of the company to learn about its future plans for exports and agricultural development for the coming season.
Mamdouh Mohi Eldin Said, General Manager of the company, said that the project was established in 1980 and implemented by Arab Contractors. Ownership was transferred to a number of Egyptian investors before the Libyan public sector company purchased 97% ownership of shares in 2004. Ownership was then transferred to the Libyan Investment Authority, Mohi Eldin said, explaining that the Board of Directors consists of seven members, five of which are Libyan and two Egyptian.
He explained that the company owns 33,490 acres distributed across 15 main farms that produce various agricultural items. He stressed that 26,500 acres have been reclaimed and cultivated through now, while 7,000 more are currently being used to farm trees utilising drip irrigation water in coordination with private sector companies.
Mohi Eldin estimated the cost of reclaiming and cultivating one acre of land with trees to be between EGP 10,000-15,000, noting that agriculture is labour-intensive work. The area that the company aims to reclaim is expected to provide approximately 35,000 employment opportunities – 7,000 of which will be permanent and the remainder temporary.
He explained that the company’s location 110km from Suez Port, 112km from Port Said, 120km from Damietta Port, 60km from Al-Obour market, and 70 km from Zagazig markets helps facilitate the marketing of the company’s products locally and globally.
Mohi Eldin said that the company has 1,800 permanent workers and 4,500 temporary ones, explaining that it depends 100% on Egyptian workers. It is the first Egyptian project to use pivot irrigation devices to irrigate crops, he said.
He explained that the company self-finances its projects, never having borrowed money from banks and does not plan to do so in the future. He explained that irrigation equipment and devices have been updated since the company was purchased for EGP 200m, and programmes to develop the company are ongoing, despite current events in Libya which have influenced the availability of liquidity.
6 October Co. for Agricultural Products has called on the government to permit the construction of a third pipeline to transport water from Ismailia to 6th October City. The company have stated that they are prepared to provide EGP 120m for the value of constructing the new line upon receiving approval from the Ministry of Irrigation.
The company claim they are the only firm in Egypt that completely relies on pipelines to irrigate its land, pointing out that the main station supplies 500,000 cubic metres of water daily to the first and second lines. The pipes were eroded as a result of their not being updated since 1980.
Mohi Eldin explained that 8km of the pipeline fall under the authority of the Ministry of Antiquities, from which the company has failed for six years to obtain approvals to construct the line. He explained that the goal of the new pipeline is to take pressure off existing lines so that they may be updated.
He said that the company is working to modernise its fleet of agricultural equipment at a cost of EGP 5m and to update 30 pivot devices during FY 2014/15 at a cost of EGP 15m. Mohi Eldin said that the life span of the device is 15 years if the land is cultivated once per year, explaining that 50% of irrigation devices are disconnected during the summer for fear that the pipelines will collapse.