Parliament Takes a Stand to Save “Cotton”. And Calls upon the Ministers of Agriculture, Irrigation, Business and Industry

The Parliament’s committee of  agriculture and irrigation decided to call upon the Ministers of  agriculture, business, industry and investment, in an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the cotton crop crisis and the reason behind the government’s  decline to buy it from farmers with the agreed upon price.  

Representative Raef Timraz, the director of the committee for agriculture and irrigation, stated that the government abandoned the farmers and left them prey in the hands of investors who control the price of cotton according to their mood. He also added that the government has set the price of cotton in Lower Egypt governorates to be 2700 EGP and 2500 EGP in Upper Egypt governorates; however, that did not happen. Moreover, the farmer cannot sell the cotton for 2300 EGP in the first place, and the investor wants to buy with the lowest possible price to slaughter the farmers.

Representative Timraz added addressing Al Watan newspaper that the committee has prepared a memo for Prime Minister Dr. Mostafa Madbouly regarding the decline of the government to receive the cotton crop from farmers and not fulfilling its promises to the farmers. He also noted that the committee scheduled an emergency meeting next Thursday and called upon the Ministers concerned with the issue, especially as it is an issue of national security.

He continued to add that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi calls for the return of white gold and Egyptian cotton exports to restart factories, but the Government is doing the opposite. What is happening today would adversely affect cotton next season, as it will reduce the areas planted, making farmers plant rice since cotton was its alternative even if said cultivation is in violation of the law.

Secretary of the Committee and Vice Mayor Montaser Othman, stated that the government had already set the price for a pound of cotton, and initially companies and factories received a portion of the crop; however, they later refused to receive the rest without giving any clear reasons. Additionally, the ministry of agriculture said that its role ends at harvest however, sales and anything else is the responsibility of the ministries of business and industry. Moreover, Othman questioned how the government could encourage the cultivation of cotton, and at the same time refuse to receive them from the farmers, causing reluctant cultivation in the next season as farmers return back to rice once again. He continued by saying that the government suffers from a contradiction in its actions, which will ruin the farmers as it sets the pricing yet tells the farmers “you’re on your own”. Moreover, the crisis cannot bear the silence and it must be solved immediately.

The deputy of the agriculture committee stated that they have sent a memo to Madbouly regarding the refusal of the government to buy the crops and Othman added that the farmers will turn to the cultivation of rice instead. 

Abdelhamid El Demerdash, representative, committee member and president of the agro-export Council, stated that the government has announced the price of cotton crop in January before plantation. Initially, there was a commitment to the farmers but then “no one is buying cotton; the crop cannot find anyone to buy it”. El Demerdash attributed the ongoing crisis between the government and the farmers to the dispute that occurred between the United States (US), the largest cotton producer, and China which imports their cotton. This dispute resulted in the reluctance of china to import the US’s cotton which led to the collapse of the cotton exchange.

He explained that globally no one buys cotton with prices between 2200 and 2300 EGP. Unfortunately, the government set the price of cotton as a substitute for rice, and then backed out because of the low global price. He added that Egypt has 2.5 million pound of cotton and the government must pay around one billion EGP to farmers, because the farmer cannot bear the collapse of the cotton exchange. Moreover, next season farmers will reduce the 350, 000 acres cultivated to almost half.  Additionally, he added that “no one will plant cotton after that and the government must adhere to and fulfil their promises”.

El Demerdash stressed the need for the intervention of the Prime Minister to resolve the crisis and that the government should bear responsibility, especially if the farmer has planted cotton based on the pricing of the government, and therefore should not be suddenly abandoned.

Amr El Gohary, member of the economic committee, called for the rapid intervention to end the cotton crop crisis. He also stated that the government should bear full responsibility for the suffering of the farmers as it is not the first time for the government to set the price and refuse to receive the crops as this happened before with sugar cane, wheat and rice. Gohary added that it is unacceptable for the government to abandon the farmer who has spent all of his money on a crop after it has set its price.