The EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, and the Arab Republic of Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, H.E. Ezz El-Din Abu Steit, meeting in Cairo welcomed the developed EU-Egypt bilateral relations and highlighted the recent improvement in Egypt’s economic situation. Both confirmed their common interest in cooperating on agriculture and rural development, aiming to enhance bilateral agri-food trade and investment and intensify exchanges at technical level. The first visit by an EU Agriculture Commissioner for many decades is a concrete signal of the importance the EU attributes to the relations with Egypt in this area.
Both sides made reference to the EU-Egypt Association Agreement, the joint Partnership Priorities, and the importance of Egypt in the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy, in the region and globally. They made reference as well to the upcoming Egyptian Presidency of the African Union (AU) and the deepening of the EU-AU relationship, in particular on food and farming. In this context, Commissioner Hogan also made reference to the forthcoming Report of the Task Force on Rural Africa.
Commissioner Hogan highlighted the EU’s significant support to the development of Egyptian agriculture and rural areas over the past decade via the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) with a number of projects. The most recent is the Joint Rural Development Program 2015-2019 (€21.9 million), which follows previous support to rural development in 2010-2017 (€10 million). Both focused on promoting good agriculture and environmental practices as well as efficient water management in agriculture and developing agri-production technologies and value chains.
EU support to the Egyptian agri-food sector is being further pursued via specific schemes provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with backing from the EU, notably the “EIB and EBRD Trade and Competitiveness programmes” (€40 million in total). Through the “Support to Agricultural SMEs” 2015-2020 (€22 million) implemented by AFD with the Ministry of Agriculture, the EU is providing credit facilities to SMEs in the agricultural sector, together with a credit guarantee scheme. Two value chains are supported: dairy and aquaculture. The European External Investment Plan (EIP) will support an upcoming investment programme on “Agriculture and rural finance” to benefit the European Neighbourhood and sub-Saharan Africa with an indicative credit line amount of up to €10.5 million for Egypt (and Tunisia).
The EU Commissioner signaled that all this EU support is contributing to Egypt’s food security, development of rural areas and countering migration trends to urban areas and abroad.
Topics such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), the EU’s system of geographical indications (GI’s), organic production, or agriculture and rural development policies should continue to be pursued in bilateral cooperation, as well as ways to facilitate trade in other areas of export interest to Egypt aimed at enhancing access to the EU market. In this context, the EU supported a workshop attended by public officials and exporters in Cairo on 18 September on EU SPS measures. The recent decision by the EU to reduce the SPS control rate for the import of Egyptian strawberries and table grapes into the EU market allows for lighter EU import requirements. Commissioner Hogan committed to support the timely evaluation needed for authorising Egyptian exports of shellfish and molluscs. He was also glad to announce the planned vote by Member States on the authorisation for importing industrial gelatin from Egypt.
The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA) and the EU-Africa R&I Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) were mentioned as main areas of collaboration on agricultural research between EU and Egypt over the next 10 years. The EU’s “Horizon Europe” for the period 2021-2027 may also bring further opportunities. Furthermore, support to the modernisation of the Agriculture Research Centre of Egypt (2015-2017) demonstrates the importance the EU has been attributing to innovation and development of Egyptian agriculture.
Minister Abu Steit indicated from the Egyptian side the commitment to cooperate with the EU on simplifying import requirements for live animals and meat alleviating restrictions on animal age, testing, quarantine periods and inspection requirements, as well as for cereals (in particular on ergot and moisture levels). He also supported the resolution of a number of technical barriers to trade in the competence of other Ministers, including the obligation of mandatory pre-shipment inspections of imported commodities and the compulsory registration of companies exporting certain agricultural and industrial products to Egypt. Minister Abu Steit looked forward for enhanced cooperation with the EU in the area of agriculture and rural development.
Minister Abu Steit and Commissioner Hogan finally highlighted the importance of facilitating business-to-business contacts between EU and Egyptian agri-food companies and farm groups, with a view to developing communication channels and partnerships. They also committed to continued contacts in the future in the framework of the regular meetings foreseen in the EU-Egypt Association Agreement.