Feb 10, 2015 - 4:15pm

Effort Bringing Food Security to the Table in Egypt

Vice President, Middle East Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

What is food security? A brief “man on the street” survey I recently did drew amusing responses ranging from using drones to protect a field of cattle to keeping fraternity brothers out of the beer fridge in college. While the phrase may elicit comical notions from the lesser informed, it is an incredibly serious issue facing countries around the globe.  

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” Food availability – sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis -- is a pillar of food security, according to the World Health Organization. And it’s not a stretch at all to assert that food security is a factor in a country’s stability and security, as well as the health and well-being of its citizens.

With bread serving as a dietary staple in a country of more than 80 million, Egypt is a major consumer of wheat used to make bread. Under its current system, wheat is kept in open-air storage sheds known as shounas. These shounas serve as the government’s main collection point for locally harvested wheat. Unfortunately, this traditional storage system results in significant post-harvest losses reaching as high as 40 percent due to rot, rodents, pigeons and rain. These post-harvest losses cost the government of Egypt hundreds of millions of Egyptian pounds annually.

Florida-based Blumberg Grain was recently selected by the Egyptian government to address this fundamental challenge by developing one of the world’s largest integrated food security systems for grain storage. The first phase of the new food security project involves replacing 93 shounas across Egypt with modernized warehouses, enabling primary processing of 3.7 million metric tons of wheat per year. Watch a video featuring David Blumberg, CEO West Africa for Blumberg Grain, to learn more about the project.

Blumberg Grain’s system will transform the way wheat is handled in Egypt through an infrastructure of sophisticated warehouses that screen, dry and grade wheat while also instituting systems to manage inventory. That will help stabilize prices and ultimately develop a platform for a commodities exchange in Egypt, and it’ll save the country up to an estimated $200 million annually as it substantially reduces those post-harvest loses suffered under the traditional shouna system.

The project is a win-win-win-win. It’s a well-earned win for Blumberg Grain to have been selected by the Egyptians for this pivotal food security project. It is clearly a win for the government of Egypt to modernize its wheat storage system and save millions of dollars. It’s a win for both Egyptian farmers and consumers.

And it is an important win for the U.S. Chamber, which is home to the U.S.-Egypt Business Council. The Council is leading the push to deepen and expand commercial and investment ties between our two nations. Blumberg Grain is a member of the Council and participated in our business mission to Cairo last November.

We know that Egypt has significant opportunities and needs across a number of sectors, and we believe American companies can bring the greatest quality, technology and solutions to the table to meet these needs. Whether it’s generating more electricity or expanding the Suez Canal or perhaps bringing new medicines to market or expanding the capacity of cloud computing, American companies stand ready to work with Egyptians and increase our collaborations with the goal of transforming Egypt’s economy and helping it realize its full potential.

Blumberg Grain and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will participate in the upcoming Egypt Economic and Development Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, March 13-15. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is hosting the conference to highlight reforms the government has already implemented and showcase future reforms designed to restore fiscal stability, drive growth and attract investment as well as present investment opportunities across a number of key sectors. We encourage U.S. businesses interested in Egypt’s vast opportunities to join us.

About the Author

About the Author

Steve Lutes headshot
Vice President, Middle East Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Steve Lutes is executive director Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is responsible for managing the U.S.-Egypt Business Council, U.S.-Iraq Business Initiative, the U.S.-GCC Business Initiative, and serves as executive director for each.