Wheat and Egypt's self sustainability

Wheat production is a very politically sensitive issue around the world but particularly in Egypt where bread is the staple diet. The bread riots in Egypt have become common place and the price of bread is often the stimulus for political unrest.

In the 1960s, Egypt achieved a 70% level of self sustainability with wheat production. However today Egypt is one of the largest wheat importers in the world.

There has been a radical change in the country's agricultural policies in the last forty years. Since the 1970s, Egyptian governments have sought to turn the country's agricultural economy towards a free liberal market system. This meant that the former agricultural minister in the 1980s, Yousef Waly, tried to encourage the facilitation of small loans and favourable pricing policies to push the production of fruits for export in order to bring in foreign currency.

These policies meant that wheat production dropped in Egypt and it became dependent on importing wheat from Russia, Australia and the USA.

The country's intervention in the restructuring of agricultural production remains a major point of political contention in the country. One school of thought points to the huge benefits if Egypt can become self sufficient in wheat production, saving, some say, up to five million dollars and ridding Egypt of a dependency on foreign imports.

Those opposed to restructuring believe that self sufficiency with wheat production in not attainable as the land mass and water resources will no longer permit it. Some quote the need for up to 8 million acres of land for wheat production in order to attain 100% local production. With the amount of agricultural land decreasing due to new building and the population rising by 1.3 million each year, opponents believe that 100% wheat production is nothing more than a idealist's dream.