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Egypt desires to raise its cotton production

Recently Egypt’s cotton cultivation has decreased though cotton of Egypt has long been seen as the best in the market having durability, fineness and luxurious softness.

Desk Report

Once cotton was Egypt’s main source of wealth in the 19th century when the Nile Delta, situated in northern Egypt, provided fertile grounds for the crop used to make the towels, sheets, and robes demanded by Europe’s bourgeoisie class. But cotton land has fallen dramatically since the prime of the 1960s when Egypt produced cotton from up to 2.2 million feddans (924,000 hectares) helped by fixed state prices.

Egypt to raise its cotton production
Figure: Farmer’s harvest cotton in a field of San Ell Hagar village in the province of Al-Sharkia northeast of Cairo, Egypt. Courtesy: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Recently the North African country’s farmers are far from the market though cotton sourced from Egypt has long been seen as the best on the market having durability, fineness and luxurious softness. A trade war between the US and China has seen benchmark global cotton prices fall afresh, as traders take fright over Beijing imposing tariffs.

Egypt liberalized its cotton sector in 1994, exposing farmers to volatile global prices and rising fertilizer costs. Egyptian farmers who cultivate cotton in Nile Delta said that the cultivation is expensive, while the price (of cotton) is very low. Profit is very little.

The US Department of Agriculture shows that the United States, Brazil, India, and Australia are now the world’s top cotton exporters, leaving Egypt trailing far behind.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 toppled the popular uprising to deal a fresh blow to the cotton sector since political and economic chaos hit production and export chains.

In Egypt, the price has gone back to the minimum guaranteed by the state of some 2,700 Egyptian pounds ($150, 130 euros) per 100 kilos.

We try to show the world that if you want to make luxury products, you have to use extra long cotton from the Delta.

Marie Louis Bishara

Egypt’s cotton union says buyers are even demanding lower prices, with no intervention by the government.

Others offer a different diagnosis of the sector’s ills that cotton enterprises must invest in mechanization such as the industry is still entirely manual.

Ahmed Elbosaty, CEO of Modern Nile Cotton said the major challenge is boosting productivity.

“A rise in productivity rather than prices would ensure better incomes for workers”, he said.

Modernization of the sector could remove the problem.

Mohammed Sheta, Director of Research at the Kafr El-Sheikh Cotton institute said that Egypt does not have the factories or the means allowing us to transform it into fabric. The government experimentally allowed the cultivation of short-fiber cotton outside the Delta region though experts and farmers remained skeptical.

Even though official exports of Egyptian cotton rose 6.9 percent by volume in the three months to the end of May compared to the same quarter of 2017, there was a 57.9-percent fall in consumption of Egyptian cotton at home, due to the domestic market turning to imported products.

At the high-end of the value chain, designer Marie Louis Bishara runs one of the few Egyptian firms that produce high-quality finished products locally for the international market.

“We try to show the world that if you want to make luxury products, you have to use extra long cotton from the Delta,” she said.

Shirts, trousers, and jackets stamped “Made in Egypt” have gone from the design stage on her factory floor to grace shop shelves in France, Italy and her home country.

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