rice shoots - CC Via Pixabay
CAIRO – 4 June 2016: The total area cultivated with rice amounts to 1.25 million feddans (1 feddan is equal to 1.038 acres), exceeding the authorized area for rice cultivation by 250,000 feddans, Abdel Latif Khaled, head of the Reservoirs and Grand Barrages Sector of the Ministry of Water Resource and Irrigation, told Egypt Today Sunday.
He added that the ministry notified the council of ministers of the violations.
Khaled added that rice production is banned in unauthorized fields and violators are subject to a fine in accordance with Irrigation and Drainage Law No. 12 of 1984.
Every autumn during the rice harvest season, Egypt suffers from a cloud of thick smoke over the Delta area. The smoke cloud results from burning the leftover rice straw to clear lands for cultivation. It contributes to increasing the level of pollution in the country as well as serious respiratory diseases, especially in children.
For years, the government has blamed farmers for exceeding the authorized areas for cultivation, and for burning the straw. Farmers, on the other hand, say that they do not have alternative means to dispose of the straw. Furthermore, some farmers believe the myth that burning rice straw increases soil fertility.
In recent years Egypt has witnessed efforts to raise farmers’ awareness of the dangers of burning the leftover straw and to provide them with the necessary tools to bale the straw and transfer it to fertilizers. Additional efforts are directed to encourage investors to buy the leftovers and make them into organic fertilizers.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), rice is cultivated once a year in Egypt. Almost all rice is produced in the valley of the lower Nile, particularly in Damieta, Dakahlia, Kafr el Sheikh, El-Sharkia, El-Behaira, and El-Gharbia.
The seed production activities are carried out mainly by state seed farms, but other services supporting rice production such as land preparation, input distribution, harvest and post harvest operations have been transferred to private sector and farmers’ associations.
In May 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that world rice production in 2016/2017 will be 481.54 million metric tons. According to the USDA rice estimation per country, Egypt is estimated to produce 4,800,000 million metric tons 2016/2017.
There are several constraints to sustainable rice production in Egypt including shortage of water, salinity, pests and diseases and climate change. In August 2015, temperatures were abnormally high and caused damage to crops, particularly rice.
The extreme heat accelerated crop development, reducing grain size and weight. The rough rice yield for 2015/16 was 28 percent below the previous year’s record, and 22 percent below the 5-year average.