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Global warming hits Egyptians’ tables

Egypt
The Egyptian Gazettte
20/10/2010
Amr Emam

Cairo - Mohssen el-Kafrawi had borrowed money from a relative to cultivate his small plot of land in the recently created the 6th of October governorate with tomatoes, thinking the harvest would pay off his debts and also help him lead a dignified life for a few months until tomatoes are harvested again.   

Dumbfounded farmers, consumers: Climatic changes are coming to haunt the lives of the Egyptian farmers and cause them unlimited losses, while they give consumers a hard time by taking the prices of food up in unprecedented ways that had their toll on both

A few weeks ago, however, el-Kafrawi’s dreams about a generous tomato harvest were shattered.

The Egyptian farmer almost collapsed when he discovered that more than 70 per cent of the tomatoes were damaged. 

“This time I did whatever it took me in the past to produce good tomatoes,” el-Kafrawi, 50, said. “But none of the measures I took was good for anything. True, the weather was warmer this year, but could this destroy the plants?” he asked in an interview with The Egyptian Gazette.

This seems to be about time local farmers, food producers and consumers opened their eyes to the shocking realities of global warming.

Climatic changes are coming to haunt the lives of the nation’s farmers and cause them unlimited losses, while they give consumers a hard time by taking the prices of food up in ways that had their toll on both the rich and the poor in a country where a major chunk of the population depends on food and fuel subsidies.

“This year, Egypt had its hottest summer in years,” said Mohamed Eissa, the Chairman of the Egyptian Meteorological Authority.

“This trend will rise in the future, which will have its effects on the geological formation of agricultural lands,” he added.

A 2007 study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

(http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch9s9-4-4.html) expects climate change to decrease national production of many crops in Egypt (ranging from –11% for rice to –28% for soybeans) by 2050 compared with their production under current climate conditions.

The study says other agricultural activities could also be affected by climate change and variability, including changes in the onset of rain days and the variability of dry spells

The expectations of the study, however, seem to have materialised so soon for people like el-Kafrawi, the 50-year-old farmer. His four acres used to produce 20 tonnes of tomatoes each. This summer, they only produced three tonnes each, landing him in major trouble.

“I spent tens of thousands of pounds to cultivate the land with tomatoes,” he said. “But I am getting nothing in the end.”

The toll rising temperature is having on productivity in farms, owned by people like el-Kafrawi, sends shockwaves in markets across this country of 80 million and brings prices up in unprecedented ways.

The prices of most vegetables and fruit have  increased 300 per cent, while in the cases of vegetables, such as tomatoes, lentils and beans, the prices increased 800 per cent, according to market observers

Tomatoes, which used to sell for LE2 at most, now sells for LE8 (around $1.3) and sometimes 10. The prices of other vegetables are making equal jumps, leaving the majority of consumers in this country dumfounded.

A recent report by the Agricultural Research Centre (ARC) says crop productivity has dropped almost 70 per cent for reasons related to rising temperature.

The centre adds in its report, which it sent to Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza a few days ago, that the rise in temperature was so fierce that most crops could not stand the heat.

“Egypt does not have any specific plans to deal with the effects of climate change and global warming on its water resources and its share of the Nile River,” said Mosaad Qutb, the Director of the Central Laboratory for Agricultural Climate at the ARC.

“Farmers need agricultural planning and consultation to confront these changes successfully,” he added in a conference in Cairo last April.

Qutb and like-minded experts say, apart from affecting the soil and decreasing rains, rising heat makes insects and rodents more active, which is also bad for productivity.  

Despite this, agriculture officials say they have a plan to help farmers avoid the disastrous effects of global warming.

ARC Chairman Ayman Farid Abu Hadid says his researchers had prepared a plan to redistribute crops according to new climate conditions.

Agricultural productivity is not about Egypt’s only loss in the case of a rise in temperature. Studies say global warming will result in a sea level rise, which will in turn cause serious subsidence in the Nile Delta.

“This will have serious impacts on low land Delta regions and adjacent highly populated cities such as Alexandria and Port Said,” says a recent study by the Egyptian environment ministry (http://www.eeaa.gov.eg/English/reports/CC/doc/CCCD-NEEDS%20Final%20report-May27-1.pdf).

Coastal zones are expected to suffer from indirect impacts such as salt water intrusion and contamination of ground water resources, exacerbating soil salinity and affecting food security,” it adds.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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