Dutch agribusiness and Egyptian Minister of Agriculture discuss future-proof agribusiness

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not government’s responsibility alone. In a meeting with the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture, Dutch companies and development partners shared their contributions, opportunities and challenges faced. Delegates saw a need for further dialogue, partnership and collaboration. Opportunities for partnerships exist on: 1) Climate resilient seeds, 2) Sustainable and inclusive aquaculture and 3) Water for agriculture.

Earlier this month His Excellency El-Sayed El-Quseir the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture, welcomed a delegation of seven Dutch companies and joint ventures in Egypt as well as representatives of four implementing partners working on sustainable and inclusive agribusiness. The Dutch delegation was led by Ambassador Han Maurits Schaapveld.

Minister of Agriculture meeting
Minister El-Quseir with Ambassador Schaapveld and Agricultural Counsellor Leenstra, Photo credit MoALR

The Minister welcomed the delegation by sharing his ministry’s priorities for developing Egypt’s food system and responding to climate change. He looked back at the process leading up to the Food System Summit and President’s commitments on food security such as joining the “School Meals Coalition”. The Minister expressed his eagerness to collaborate with the Dutch in the run up to the COP27 climate summit next year hosted by Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt would like to make use of Dutch expertise to produce hybrid and resilient seeds to deal with climate change. Egypt is also interested to work with the Netherlands on fish and aquaculture. 

Dutch companies present have moved from trade to investment to provide international standard jobs to Egyptian agribusiness talents. In the process, they apply Dutch technology and expertise, making it relevant to Egypt’s food system challenges. Egypt faces the challenge to provide jobs and healthy diets to a growing population in the context of water scarcity and a changing climate. However, it does not face that challenge alone; the Dutch are keen to do business and work with the Egyptian people to face those challenges together. 

Minister of Agriculture meeting Dutch companies
Dutch partners engaging with MoALR. Photo credit MoALR

Some of the companies present produce food and beverages for Egyptian consumers such as Friesland Campina, Farm Frites, HEINEKEN / Al Ahram Beverages. Processing companies such as Peanut processor Kernile provide a welcome market for farmers and make use of Egypt as a regional agribusiness hub linking Europe and Africa. Other companies present such as Rijk Zwaan, Koudijs Kapo and Nutreco (Skretting Egypt) provide farmers with the quality inputs to sustainably intensify their production. 

However, sustainable and inclusive business is not easy. Within a food system, sustainability means balancing people, planet and profit. Also present were development partners and programmes such as Care Egypt, Solidaridad and 2Scale that work with agribusiness to link farmers to markets, support more ecologically sustainable production and encourage companies to do more to increase their social impact.

Staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Netherlands Embassy listened attentively to opportunities and challenges presented by companies. Points and perspectives gave input into policy makers’ dilemmas. How to develop and provide access to the right seeds to allow farmers improve their productivity while being more resilient to climate. How to support farmers with advice to take the right decision on land and water use. How to facilitate local and international markets to work to allow access to food and agricultural inputs while doing justice to societal concerns. As farmers are entrepreneurs and consumers, they make market decisions such issues can only be dealt with through public private partnership. The Minister and the Ambassador agreed to explore how a food system analysis could provide a way of answering such dilemmas.    

For the Dutch Agriculture team three areas stood out for developing partnership opportunities:
Climate Resilient Seeds: Both seed companies and processors have an interest to provide farmers with improved seed varieties suited to the local climate and market needs. The enabling environment is key to connect supply and demand. At the same time, there are opportunities for Egyptian private and public breeders to contribute to global efforts to develop varieties more resilient to heat, disease, salinity and other climate related constraints. This creates opportunities for SeedNL to support access to seeds and breeding for climate resilience in Egypt.

Sustainable and Inclusive Aquaculture: Fish provide nutritious proteins with a limited water and carbon footprint. SME family farms make Egypt the largest aquaculture producer in Africa. Opportunities exist to improve water quality challenges, food safety challenges and farmers’ economic resilience by focusing on circularity in Aquaculture. For Dutch feed companies have knowledge and expertise to share for investing in a more resilient sector. The Netherlands will present such opportunities at the Aquaculture Africa conference 2021 in Alexandria.

Water for Agriculture: Water availability was the ‘elephant in the room’ during the meeting. Both companies and government are still very much focused on increasing production and productivity. Much of Egypt’s extra production for local processing, consumption and export is produced with non-renewable ground water. Food system thinking would provide opportunities to find which agri-food activities would create optimal returns to the Egyptian agrifood-sector in view of water scarcity. This implies a strategic agenda for the import and export of agricultural commodities and inputs.  

The agricultural team will continue to engage in partnership and dialogue in these strategic areas.