A recent surge in the price of the fava bean-based foul sandwich, one of the most popular dishes in Egypt, bears testament to the need for a bona fide food policy in Egypt.
The over 25 percent increase in price1 has raised a great deal of concern, as these sandwiches are the staple food of most low-income households.
Long self-sufficient and even a net exporter of fava beans, Egypt is currently suffering from its excessive reliance on the world markets for agricultural raw materials and fava beans in particular.
With production levels insufficient to meet demand, Egypt has increasingly turned to imports; the country produces 240,000 tons of fava beans annually2, but 550,000 tons are required to meet demand. Currently, Egypt has to import over half of the beans it requires. And in a context where agricultural prices are on the rise, Egypt is bearing the brunt of price volatility.
As a result, the country continues to acquire the handicaps of a net importer, this despite the high performance of its farming sector. As Habib Ayeb, a researcher at the American University of Cairo, states, “there is a very real paradox in Egypt, where the agricultural sector is quite successful. The country has the means for food self-sufficiency, but not to cover all of its food needs.”
In light of this senseless situation, some are speaking out to denounce the government’s lack of political will and short-term vision with regard to agricultural policy. One agricultural expert, Mohamed Al-Borei, recently sounded the alarm by calling on the government to requisition land for bean production.