Mar. 25, 2019
Egypt’s agricultural sector is a dynamic, fundamental component of the economy. Agriculture accounts for 11.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) (2017 estimate). The agricultural sector employs roughly 7.8 million people, accounting for nearly 26 percent of the national labor force. An estimated 40 percent of the population is involved in agricultural activities. Egypt’s domestic food needs are 60 percent met by local resources while food and agricultural products imports account for 40 percent. Egypt with a population of 99.4 million (est. July 2018) is adding over 2 million people per year.
Agricultural production is highly concentrated along the Nile river and in the Nile delta. Land usage is structured and intensely cultivated, relying almost entirely on surface irrigation. Practically all agriculture land goes to crop production. The main agricultural products are wheat, cotton, rice, sugar cane, sugar beets, corn, fruits, and vegetables.
Although arable land per person is small (0.04 ha), this is offset by multiple cropping, with two to three growing seasons each year. Intensive production doubles the total agricultural area of 3.6 million hectares to about 6.3 million hectares. Smallholder farming dominates; 80 percent of the farms are under one hectare in size.
Since the inception of the modern seed industry in Egypt (1922), seeds have been an important input for raising agricultural productivity. The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR) supports, and is strengthening the seed industry infrastructure. During the 1990s, the Ministry stimulated private sector participation by liberalizing the national seed sector. It separated certification from production, allowing national research institutes to focus on breeding research. Seed associations actively engage the government.
The private sector counts with strong representation, regularly engaging the state regulatory authorities. The private sector is largely responsible for the development of field and vegetable crop seeds (i.e., corn and sugar beets).
From January 2016 to November 2018, Egypt imported roughly 1,350 metric tons (MT) (excluding seed potato) of vegetable seeds. U.S.-origin vegetable seed varieties represent 23-25 percent of Egypt’s total seeds imports. There is strong demand for U.S.-origin seeds.