On World Cotton Day, Egypt says production increases by 30% this year

Cotton Harvest- CC via Flickr/Kimberly Vardeman

CAIRO – 7 October 2021: Egypt, which is famous for its extra-long staple cotton, has achieved a relative relief in cotton plantation this year by achieving an increase in its production by 30% during 2021.

Celebrating World Cotton Day, which marks October 7, the Egyptian Cabinet said that cotton cultivation and production have seen an increase compared to the last year. The global cotton price and the high demand for it are the main reasons for the production increase.

“The current season is the best one ever for cotton farmers in Egypt […] cotton prices in Egypt jumped to their highest level in history,” said the head of the Egyptian Farmers’ Syndicate Hussein Abu Saddam in a statement on Thursday.

Egypt increased the cultivated area this year to reach 236,000 feddans (one feddan equals 1.038 acres or 0.42 hectare), compared to the previous season as it was only 182,000 feddans last year, he added, noting that cotton production is expected to be about 1.6 million kantars (the official Egyptian weight unit for measuring cotton as one kantar equals to 45.02 kg), with an increase of 30% in production compared to last year.

Head of the Egyptian General Organization for Arbitration and Cotton (GOAC) Testing Mohamed Khedr attributed this increase to the global high demand due to a decline of the cotton stocks, Masrawy reported on May 18, 2021.

The global stock of cotton is projected to decline by 5 percent to reach 86.7 million bales (one bale equals 170 kg) this year because of the decline of the stocks in China, said the US Department of Agriculture.

In its annual report on Egypt’s cotton on March 31, 2021, the US Department of Agriculture said that “cotton area harvested in Egypt was forecast to increase seven percent to 70,000 hectares (ha), from 65,000 ha in MY 2020/21.” It added that Egypt’s production is estimated to increase at 250,000 bales this year, compared to 215,000 bales in the previous year.

The GOAC said that 21 countries led by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh imported Egyptian cotton from October 2020 to September 2021, amounting to 88,452.58 tons of cotton.

The 2021 cultivated area is the same area harvested in 2019. The cultivated area was decreased to 183,000 feddans in 2020 compared to 236,000 feddans in the previous season (2019), while the cotton cultivation in 2018 covered only 336,000 faddans (One feddan is equal to 1.03 acres), according to a statement issued by Abu Saddam in March 2021.

Cotton field in Mahala El Kobra- Egypt Today/Samar Samir

These figures showed that over the past three years the cultivation areas of cotton were dwindling by 100,000 feddans every year.

In 2018, Egyptian cotton suffered a setback as the supply was higher than the demand; farmers could not sell it at reasonable prices. So, in the following two consecutive years, several farmers gave up planting cotton and the cultivated area sharply declined, Abu Saddam told Egypt Today on Thursday.

In March statement, Abu Saddam attributed the downsize of the cotton cultivation areas to certain reasons. Firstly, the government abandoned supporting farmers as it did not set a guaranteed price for the purchase of cotton and relied on the auction system. Secondly, the local factories rely on imported short-staple cotton, not the Egyptian one.

Thirdly, he added, cotton farmers have suffered successive losses due to the drop in the prices of their production over the previous seasons. Fourthly, farmers have no automated harvesting equipment amid the high cost of manual harvesting.

Although the increase of cultivation and production of Egypt’s cotton this year was driven by the high demand and decline of the stocks globally, the government is coincidently working on improving it and its associated industries.

Experimentally, Egypt has recently succeeded in cultivating colored cotton, especially green and light brown. The cultivation of genetically modified colored cotton aims at reducing the pollutants of the dyeing process.

In addition to this, the government is building the world’s largest spinning factory at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, as it was announced by the Ministry of Public Business Sector in July 2020.

The factory is located on an area of about 62,500 square meters, and it accommodates more than 182,000 spinners, with an average production capacity of 30 tons/day. The construction work of the factory takes about 14 months, at an estimated cost of about LE 780 million. 

“The government is paying attention to the development of cotton cultivation,” said Abu Saddam in remarks to Egypt Today on Thursday.

As for increasing the cultivated area, Abu Saddam said It is better for the government to cultivate cotton in accordance with the global demand to avoid any possible surplus that could, consequently, lead to a drop in cotton prices again as it was happed in 2018.

“Planting cotton is a natural fertilizer for the soil. Its leaves are used in animal fodder, said Abu Saddam, adding that oil is extracted from cotton seeds, which later are used as fodder as well.

Brief on cotton cultivation history in Egypt

Historically, ancient Egyptians had planted cotton during the era of pharaonic King Ahmose II (the 26th dynasty) as it was revealed by the ancient Greek writer Herodotus, according to a study of Cotton plant ” Existence in Ancient Egypt by Venice Attia from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and published in December 2018.

The study also said that Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote that ancient Egyptian priests were wearing cotton-fabric clothes. The study, which relied on The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology vol. 20, No. ½ and published in June 1934, added that British archeologist Mr. J W Crowfoot mentioned that Nubia-Kush kingdom was planting cotton for clothing.

The study added that Ottoman ruler Muhammad Ali of Egypt brought an improved strain of cotton from India to enhance cotton plantation and its trade in Egypt.

To improve cotton cultivation and get many high revenues, Muhammad Ali invested money in the infrastructure of irrigation and transportation and managed to introduce the commercial production of cotton in 1822, according to a bulletin titled Cultivation and Production of the Egyptian Cotton.

By the 1830s, the core of modern Egypt consisted of cotton spinning and weaving, added the bulletin, which was published by the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture Library in 2015.

In his book From the Map of the Egyptian Agriculture in 1984, Egyptian scholar and geographer Gamal Hamdan said that the area of cotton cultivation was fluctuated over Egyptian history due to certain factors; It boomed during the American civil war and the Korean war, while its cultivation sharply declines due to the WWI and WWII because of the closing of exportation market. The maximum cultivated area for cotton reached about 2 million feddans in 1961, while its minimum cultivated areas were less than one million feddans in 1945, he added.

Cotton- CC via Flikr/aokcreation

World Cotton Day

More than 75 countries grow cotton globally. Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali (Cotton-4 countries) have called for an initiative for a world cotton day. In 2019, the World Trade Organization (WTO) organized an event to launch this initiative.

On August 30, 2021, the United Nations adopted a resolution recognizes the celebration of cotton day globally on October 7, as cotton plays a vital role “by providing livelihoods and subsistence for millions of people and recognizes its broader economic and social impact around the world.”

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