Government intends to extend rice export ban, says official

The government intends to continue banning rice exports to meet the needs of the local market, a senior Agriculture Ministry official said, adding that some exporters are circumventing the export ban by alleging they are merely shipping out a low-quality form of the grain.

To address the issue, the Agriculture Ministry has prepared a report on rice cultivation in Egypt that it will submit to a ministerial committee which includes the ministers of trade and solidarity and social justice, Al-Masry Al-Youm has learned.

The report has found that 1.5 million acres of land have been planted with rice this year in the northern Nile Delta.

Any government attempt to open up rice exports will lead to a dramatic rise in local prices ― to LE8 a kilo up from LE4 ― Agriculture Ministry sources said.

Abdel Azim Tantawy, an international rice expert and former head of the Agriculture Research Center, called for a ban on the export of the so-called low-quality rice, pointing out that many export companies smuggle this rice to Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Syria under the guise of it being poor quality.

A government decision to allow the export of rice would be a bad decision, Tantawy said in a press statement, stressing that it would reduce rice supply in the domestic market at a time that general indicators are pointing to relatively high rice prices. He also noted that rice productivity has reduced by 25 percent per acre as compared to the previous decade and that the total rice requirement for Egypt's population has reached 3.2 million tons.

According to international statistics, the Egypt's per capita consumption of rice is 40kg. Egypt's total production of rice in 2011 has been 5 million tons, as compared to 6 million tons last year. The total area on which rice has been cultivated amounts to 1.6 million acres, with an average productivity of 3.5 tons per acre, down from 4 tons last year, said Tantawy. Although the government has announced its intention to buy 1 million tons of rice from farmers, it has only received 200,000 tons so far, meaning that its strategic rice reserves should decrease significantly, he added.

Tantawy attributed this year's decline in rice production to the fertilizer shortage in various governorates, irrigation water failing to reach the ends of canals and a lack of agricultural guidance.

Tantawy called on the government to not accept rice varieties differing from the 250,000 tons of rice imported annually, pointing out that some companies are trying to import low-quality Filipino rice that yields profits of up to US$500 a ton.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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