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Egypt food security, Saudi wheat, Syngenta GM, desert wheat

By Nicola Cottam

- Last updated on GMT

Blumberg Grains will develop an integrated food security system for grain storage in Egypt
Blumberg Grains will develop an integrated food security system for grain storage in Egypt

Related tags: United arab emirates, Middle east

Food security push in Egypt, Saudi Arabia axes wheat production, Syngenta gets the green light for GM corn imports, and growing wheat in the desert.

Blumberg Grains to expand in the Middle East

The Egyptian government has enlisted Miami-based Blumberg Grains to develop an integrated food security system for grain storage.

In the first phase, 93 storage sites will be developed with a total processing capacity of around 3.7 million metric tons of wheat per year and 3.6 million square feet of storage space.

The project will support the Ministry of Supply in recovering crops lost to post harvest losses, saving Egypt up to an estimated US$200m annually, according to sources.

Blumberg Grains will also construct a manufacturing plant and export hub in Egypt to further strengthen its ties in the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region, as part of a US$250m investment program.

Export opportunities in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will cease production of wheat by 2016, making it completely reliant on imports, according to minister of agriculture Waleed Al-Kuraiji.

Saudi Arabia is currently the sixth largest importer of wheat worldwide and will have increased imports from 300,000 tonnes in 2008 to three million tonnes by the end of this year.

It started reducing wheat outputs by 12.5% annually in 2008, when the government decided to abandon its self-sufficiency project because of its negative effect on water resources.

To combat any challenges during the transitional period, the minister said the private and public sector would concentrate on improving food security facilities to ensure wheat can be preserved for one year – as opposed to current limits of six months.

Chinese thumbs up for Syngenta’s GM corn?

Syngenta AG is expecting Chinese approval for imports of its contentious GM corn, Agrisure Viptera (MIR 162), according to a company spokesperson.

US corn imports to the region were effectively shut down in November 2013 when traces of the unapproved grain were discovered in corn shipments.

The scandal proved costly for the US corn industry and led to litigations from rivals Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland – for selling the grain to China without obtaining import approval – as well as dozens of US farmers.

However Paul Minehard revealed that MIR 162 is now cleared for import, although he said Syngenta has not yet received the official documentation from the Chinese government and it remains unclear whether his comments represent a concrete breakthrough in the company's four-year wait for approval.

Egypt’s ambitious wheat project

Egypt has embarked on an ambitious project to grow wheat in the desert, thanks to the backing of two companies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Arab state is the world's largest wheat importer and has aspired to become self-sufficient in wheat through a number of failed schemes, including reclaiming land in desert wastelands.

Experts maintain that growing wheat in the desert makes no economic sense due to logistical and environmental challenges. Other barriers include low yields, poor soil quality and unpredictable water supplies.

Nevertheless, the two UAE agricultural companies Al Dahra and Jenaan plan to turn Egypt’s southern desert into a wheat growing haven, producing several hundred thousand tonnes of wheat for the Cairo government – approximately 10% of domestic crop bought annually from farmers.

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