A child and farmer Am Tayeb stand in a field of extra long staple "Giza 88" cotton in Shubra Kheit in El Beheira Governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Shadi Bushra
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Standing waist-deep in a cotton field, Egyptian farmer Mohamed Khalil cannot mask his anger; after the Agriculture Ministry banned cotton imports to help local producers, the Cabinet abruptly vetoed the idea – the latest in a series of economic policy U-turns and delays under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.However, alarmed textile manufacturers had campaigned against the ban, which would have deprived them of cheap imported cotton supplies.Liberalization of Egypt's cotton sector in 1994 exposed farmers to volatile global prices and rising fertilizer costs. Cotton acreage has fallen dramatically since the heyday of the 1960s, when Egypt grew cotton on up to 2.2 million feddans (924,000 hectares), helped by fixed state prices.A quarter century ago, Egypt produced 2.4 million bales of cotton but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expects this season's output to be just 340,000 bales."The original idea was very bad," he told Reuters. It had sent local textile manufacturers into a panic because Egyptian millers consume nearly twice as much cotton as local farmers produce, he said.The biggest threat to local cotton was low productivity on Egyptian farms, which the import ban would not have addressed, said Siam.
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