The United States (US) has invested $1.5bn to increase agricultural export revenue in Egypt by 1,500% through improved marketing and technical assistance to more than 500,000 smallholder farmers, plus $240m for improving irrigation systems across Egypt, according to Elizabeth Mello, US Embassy Senior Agricultural Attache.
Mello added that the US also provides a Credit Guarantee Program through the Community Credit Corporation that enables Egyptian businesses to secure financing and credit support to enable them to more easily import American food products, thus increasing the diversity of products available to the Egyptian consumer.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Mello on the occasion of the US Independence Day on 4 July, to shed light on the US-Egypt agriculture cooperation, climate change issues and its impact on the agricultural production, and the Ethiopian Dam filling’s possible impact on Egypt’s share of River Nile water and subsequently its agricultural production.
Mello talked about the current agricultural programmes that the US embassy is implementing in Egypt. She also elaborated on the new agricultural agreements between the two countries and US activities to build capacities of the Egyptian agricultural institutions.
What are the current agricultural programmes that the US embassy is implementing in Egypt?
Egypt is an important strategic partner to the United States. We share an aspiration of ensuring food security for all Egyptians. Both countries have a long-standing collaboration in the agricultural sector. The US has invested $1.5bn to increase agricultural export revenue by 1,500% through improved marketing and technical assistance to more than 500,000 smallholder farmers. Likewise, a total of $240m was injected to improve irrigation across Egypt.
Additionally, we support technical exchange programmes, collaborative research, and capacity building activities. These programmes have been ongoing for decades, and we look forward to extending this partnership.
So what’s new? A lot! The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is currently supporting a Food for Progress programme in Egypt. The total awarded amount is roughly $12.8m over five years as of 2019.
Those investments are large and our impact benefits farmers from big firms all the way down to small farmers as well. The US Government through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is also collaborating with the National Bank of Egypt to improve access to finance for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises investing in dairy and fisheries, hence strengthening the two value chains. To date, the National Bank of Egypt extended more than 60 loans to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises establishing and upgrading milk collection centres across the country. Similar activities are being implemented to increase lending to fisheries.
USAID’s programme components complement each other by enhancing the productivity of the entire agriculture value chain, from farm to table. Working with local associations and cooperatives, we help Egyptian small-scale farmers be more responsive to global market needs. Through training, farmers are able to achieve international quality standards certification, which helps gain exporters’ confidence in their products. This means we’re helping open US and other international markets to Egyptian products, helping Egyptian farmers profit from growing crops they might never have grown in years past, like mangos. We incorporate innovative technologies in cold storage infrastructure and irrigation, and work with farmers on production, post-harvest processes, and marketing so that farmers can deliver high-quality produce at higher prices.
Another new project is called: Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening (ERAS). The US Government, through this USAID project, aims to develop the horticulture industry’s ability to better respond to domestic and international buyer demand and improve the industry’s competitiveness by applying a market-drive, systems-strengthening approach. ERAS will ultimately create a more competitive and inclusive Egyptian economy through horticulture sector growth, with special focus on securing employment and increasing agriculture-related incomes of smallholder farmers. In partnership with the private sector, ERAS provides grants to agribusinesses to increase their competitiveness through improvements in modern processing facilities, access to refrigerated trucks, and the use of water-efficient irrigation systems. ERAS also aims to help farmers and agribusinesses gain access to finance, increase adherence to food safety practices, and improve the nutritional status of women and children.
What are the problems that hinder further Egypt-US agricultural cooperation?
We do not have many issues, but we continue to work on boosting agricultural cooperation. In 2020, Egypt was the 13th largest destination for US agricultural exports by value, totalling $1.9bn. This represents a 24% increase from 2019. The United States is the second-largest agricultural supplier to Egypt with 14% market share, just behind the EU27+UK with 16% market share. The largest export growth for the United States was seen in soybeans: $1.47bn in 2020, up $480m from 2019, an increase of 48%.
Bilateral trade in agriculture is an important component of the US-Egypt relationship. USDA/FAS continue to work with Egypt to resolve any market access issues for both Egyptian and American growers.
What about the embassy’s activities to build capacities of the Egyptian agricultural institutions?
In addition to the capacity-building inherent in a number of programmes discussed, the Department of Agriculture sponsors two annual capacity-building programs, the Cochran Fellowship Program and the Borlaug Fellowship Program.
The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals. Here in Egypt the programme:
- Helps Egyptians develop agricultural systems necessary to meet the food and fibre needs of their domestic populations.
- Strengthens and enhances trade linkages between Egypt and agricultural interests in the United States.
- Egyptian Cochran fellows visit the United States, generally for 2-3 weeks, to work with US universities, government agencies, and private companies. They receive hands-on training to enhance their technical knowledge and skills in areas related to agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing.
- In 2021, six Egyptian fellows will participate in the training programme for Management Practices in Dairy and Livestock Operations. The objective of this program is to educate the Fellows on bovine genetics, livestock farm management practices, and livestock nutritional inputs. During the training programme, participants will meet with professionals in their field, participate in field observations and industry visits, experience on-the-job training, and attend university courses and seminars.
The Borlaug Fellowship Program offers mentoring and training to researchers and policymakers in Egypt to help promote food security and economic growth.
- Egyptian Borlaug fellows are generally scientists, researchers, or policymakers who are in the early or middle stages of their careers. Each fellow works one-on-one with a mentor at a US university, research centre, or government agency, usually for 8-12 weeks. The US mentor later visits the fellow’s home institution in Egypt to continue collaboration.
- In 2021, two Egyptian researchers will participate in two research topics for Egypt: (1) Risk analysis of food contact materials, developing a risk-based system in Egypt related to food contact materials; and (2) Assessing the impact of some food additive mixtures (common in children’s food) on health.
Do you think the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will harm Egypt’s share of water and negatively affect its agricultural production?
We appreciate the importance of water security to Egypt’s 100 million people. To underscore the US Government’s commitment to addressing this issue, Secretary of State Blinken appointed Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman as Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, and one of his responsibilities is to lead our efforts on the GERD. We support collaborative and constructive efforts by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resolve their disagreements on the GERD and shared water resources.
As to efforts on agriculture specifically,climate change adaptation is of vital significance to Egyptian agriculture, given the reliance of the sector on climate. Enhancing the adaptation and mitigation strategies for the agricultural sector under Egyptian conditions is a major priority for Egypt’s government. Collaborative research programs between US universities and Egyptian counterparts in crop breeding and genetics to develop climate resilient crops that are early-maturing, high yielding, and tolerant to drought and heat conditions could boost agricultural production.
The US government, through USAID, builds the capacity of smallholder farmers to improve irrigation practices and reduce water losses by promoting modernized irrigation practices, the introduction of low-cost, high-efficiency irrigation techniques such as gated pipes, and the selection of water preservative horticulture crops.
Can you please elaborate on the current agricultural agreements and the opportunity of inking new ones to facilitate agricultural cooperation?
The United States Government, as well as US universities, have long partnered with Egyptian Research Institutions to improve agricultural and water productivity. Examples include: USDA scientists supporting the Egyptian National Gene Bank; USAID’s work with smallholder horticulture farmers in Upper Egypt; and US universities collaborating with their Egyptian counterparts to produce improved varieties of field crops capable of adapting to abiotic and biotic stresses. Addressing climate change impacts on agriculture through science and technology provides new opportunities to facilitate collaborative research, exchange programs, and technology transfer in mitigating challenges associated with climate change.
What is the size of American meat exports to Egypt?
US exports of livestock and meat to Egypt amounted to 16,040 metric tonnes with a total value of $21m in the January-April period in 2021, compared to 19,142 metric tonnes during the same period in 2020, valued at $29m.
How do you see Egypt’s efforts to face climate change and its impact on agricultural production?
Various Egyptian government programmes aim to address climate change. Interventions include the production of early maturing crop varieties and development of drought and heat tolerant crops. Continued investment in science and technology is essential in mitigating challenges associated with climate change. We look forward to continuing cooperation with our Egyptian partners as we work towards our shared aspiration of ensuring food security for all Egyptians.
The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service is currently supporting a Food for Progress programme in Egypt, with roughly $12.8m invested over five years as of 2019
The US is the second- largest agricultural supplier to Egypt with 14% market share, just behind the EU27+UK with 16% market share
We support collaborative and constructive efforts by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resolve their disagreements on the GERD and shared water resources