Egypt is set to see an unprecedented rise in the number of goods and services being packaged in its supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and cafes by 2020, with food staples expected to account for about 40 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The country’s food distribution system will see more than half of the nation’s food consumed at home packaged and transported in the first three months of 2021, according to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
“Food is going to be more affordable for more people,” said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the executive director of the World Food Programme.
“And the food that you eat, the food you buy, is going into your fridge and then on to your shelf.”
The UNDP says Egypt will see an increase in food imports of over $1 billion a year by 2020.
The rise in food shipments could be due to a number of factors, including the growing importance of food production and a sharp drop in the cost of food imports.
Food is expected to be the second-largest source of foreign exchange out of Egypt’s export-oriented economy, after the oil industry.
“It’s a lot easier to bring a lot of food from one place, and a lot more difficult to transport it to another place, especially because we have a lot fewer transportation hubs,” said Abdel Azz.
But Egypt’s fast-paced urbanisation has also seen the country become increasingly dependent on imports for much of its food.
“We’re going to see a huge increase in imports,” said Hossam Ghaith, the managing director of food services firm Nesta.
“You’re going have a very large increase in the demand for food.
It’s not just that the population is growing, but also because of the new urbanisation that’s occurring in the country.”
The number of people living in the capital city of Cairo, home to the countrys largest Muslim population, has skyrocketed from an estimated 2.2 million in 2005 to 5.5 million today, according the UNDP.
The UNDP estimates that the city has become a hub for the country in food and agriculture.
Egypt’s agricultural sector has been largely privatised in the past few years.
Many of the businesses that used to take over from state-run agencies are now run by private businesses, making it difficult to regulate and monitor them, said Abdelaziz.
“I think the whole system will change.
I think it’s going to shift, because the number one concern is the impact on the environment,” he said.
Ghaith said Egypt’s food security is in the best shape it’s ever been.
“People are eating less.
People are eating healthier,” he told CBC News.
“So we’re very, very confident that the environment is good.”
Egyptian food is one of the most affordable commodities in the world, with prices starting at just $3 per kilogramme of food, according a 2015 report by Food & Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO).
However, some of the cheapest, most popular items are imported, and prices for staples such as rice and maize are skyrocketing.
Egypt is expected soon to implement a series of food safety regulations, including mandatory labelling and packaging of foods, in order to make the country more environmentally friendly.
The Egyptian government is also aiming to increase its consumption of non-essential food, such as fish, poultry and fruit.
The United Nations estimates that there are more than 50 million food insecure people in Egypt, with some estimates indicating the country has as many as a quarter of its population living on less than $1.25 per day.
“Food insecurity is a real problem, because we’ve been so focused on food,” said Ghauth.
“The only thing that we can do is provide what we need, and we can’t afford to eat.”
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