By Mohamed Abdel Monsef
The estimated annual wheat losses due to improper handling during production and manufacturing amounts to approximately EGP 4.2bn, according to Mohamed Ali Mousa, wheat expert with the Agricultural Research Centre.
Mousa added that annual waste weighs 1.3m tonnes while the price per tonne is EGP 2,800.
He told Daily News Egypt that since the wheat season started last week in Ismailia, wheat production reached 9.2m tonnes for the 2013/2014 season. This entails that the country is losing 14% of total production, compared to only 2% in developed countries.
He added that losses due to poor practices have reached 609,000 tonnes, of which 315,000 tonnes are considered human consumption losses due to poor bread baking. Another 156,400 tonnes are lost during the hay harvest and during transport from the field to the storage silos.
He also pointed to 66,000 tonnes in losses due to pests and rodents, when crops are stored in poorly equipped warehouses with the Principal Bank for Development & Agricultural Credit. There are also 48,000 tonnes in bakeries and 8,500 tonnes in mills.
Mousa said that estimated losses associated with non-human consumption are 670,000 tonnes, of which 500,000 tonnes represent losses in cow and buffalo feeding. This is in addition to 130,000 tonnes for sheep and goats, 28,000 tonnes for camels, and 12,000 tonnes for birds.
He expected that the cultivated land for this season would reach 3.5m acres, while production will increase to 10m tonnes. He added that annual consumption for Egypt amounts to roughly 14.4m tonnes, meaning that the country has achieved 70% self-sufficiency.
Mousa confirmed it is impossible to expand wheat cultivation to over 3.5m acres, as maintaining land fertility requires an agricultural cycle where wheat and other winter crops are cultivated alternately.
He said the total area of cultivated land in Egypt is 8.6m acres, of which 1.6m acres are cultivated with sustainable fruit trees. The other 7m are cultivated with field crops, distributed between wheat and the remaining winter crops.
He added that clover is cultivated on an area of 1.5m acres, sugar beets 500,000 acres, and sugar cane 320,000 acres. The rest of the land is cultivated with green beans, lentils, beans, peas, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
Mousa said the real challenge for Egypt is its limited wheat storage capacity which does not exceed 4.22m tonnes. There are 2m tonnes located at the Principal Bank for Development & Agricultural Credit storage, 1.49m tonnes in silos, and 731,000 tonnes in mills.
He also discussed the efforts of the Agricultural Research Centre to increase wheat production. In 2004, cultivated land measured 2.6m acres, while for the 2013/2014 season, this number reached 3.2m acres. Total production increased from 7.1m tonnes to 9.2m tonnes during the same period.