CAIRO, EGYPT, Oct. 1, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- ACDI/VOCA, in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer program it implements along with the New Zealand Embassy, hosted an international conference on boosting investment in Upper Egypt agribusiness.
The event took place in wake of a successful USAID program that developed tomato and horticultural value chains in that vast region of Upper Egypt.
The USAID program, known as Agribusiness Linkages/GDA, has been implemented by ACDI/VOCA for the past five years. It established Egypt as a net exporter of tomato paste and proved that Upper Egypt's smallholder producers can be reliable providers of high-quality, traceable products. Average tomato yields in project areas doubled as a result of Agribusiness Linkages/GDA activities, and many farmers tripled and even quadrupled their yields. Under the circumstances Egypt currently faces, the growth of livelihood opportunities is more important than ever.
The conference, held September 25 at the Mövenpick Cairo, discussed the program's successes and lessons learned, and made the case for further developing Upper Egypt's agribusiness resources and strengthening North-South linkages.
Guests included government decisionmakers, donors, NGOs, banks, investment firms, development and investment consultancies, agricultural producers, processors and exporters, and input suppliers. New Zealand's ambassador, David Strachan, gave an opening address, and Dr. Mona Aly of Egypt's Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation delivered the keynote.
USAID was represented by Mission Director Mary Ott and Program Manager Mohamed Elwafa. "The day was a great success," said Elwafa.
Upper Egypt has significant untapped potential to develop agribusiness. Already, with the help of the Agribusiness Linkages/GDA project, Egyptian processors have lengthened the period during which they can supply fresh produce to as long as 300 days out of the year by taking advantage of climatic variations between northern and southern Egypt and integrating southern farmers into the sector.
The development of southern farmers' capacity has allowed Egyptian freshpack exporters to meet counter-season demand in Europe, and recent infrastructure improvements have facilitated direct exports from ports on the Red Sea to southern Africa, the Arab Gulf states and elsewhere. Investors from the Arab Gulf are looking to Upper Egypt to meet their countries' food security objectives; Egyptian investors might do the same.
Capitalizing on Investments
During the past decade, the government of Egypt has invested in Upper Egypt by expanding the network of highways, developing the port of Safaga and upgrading international airports in Aswan, Assiut, Luxor and Abu Simbel. Free zones and industrial areas have been established, though not fully utilized.
Egyptian freshpack and processed foods companies export to over 80 countries, yet opportunity remains unfulfilled due to a lack of raw materials at critical periods—periods when growers in warmer Upper Egypt could step in to meet demand.
Opportunities for Investors
The goal of the conference was to help establish a vision for how Upper Egypt can contribute to the country's economic development by integrating its agricultural resources into a cohesive supply system serving Egyptian agribusiness stakeholders and consumers worldwide. The conference underscored the importance of applying a market-driven approach to development, one of ACDI/VOCA's fundamental precepts. It also addressed issues of food security, vector and pest control, climate change, community development and job creation. It presented a comprehensive picture of the current situation in Upper Egypt and provided policymakers with a coordinated response from development organizations, donors and industry partners.
ACDI/VOCA has operated in Egypt for 30 years and in Upper Egypt for 10. Our projects in Upper Egypt have improved farming practices, integrated smallholder horticultural and dairy farmers into higher value (e.g., processing and export) markets, strengthened the agribusiness value chain by building equity at the base of the pyramid, and increased productivity and incomes.
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