Economic transformation and food security in developing countries: The case of Egypt

Date of Completion

January 1997


Anthropology, Cultural|Economics, General|Economics, Agricultural




This thesis attempts to trace and analyze food security in Egypt since 1952 in terms of economic and cultural features, particularly focusing on wheat.^ Famine has been a threatening factor in many developing countries, where a combination of natural and human factors were initially blamed for food crises. The reality is that such factors only triggered events that would probably have happened sooner or later.^ Following the Egyptian revolution in 1952, the government was in total control of food production, consumption, import, and distribution. This guaranteed a minimum level of affordable food supply for the poor through subsidized prices for both producers and consumers. In 1973/74, the government turned the economy to an open door policy (infitah). Such policy caused rapid economic deterioration due to growing budget deficit, enormous trade deficit, cumulative external debt obligations, and corruption. The government reached the point where it was unable to neither pay the debt installments nor to buy wheat or any food commodity in the world market. By the mid 1980s, the Egyptian government was pressured by development agencies to introduce severe economic reforms in order to balance the national budget. Free market implementation was the center of such reform and the elimination of government's explicit and implicit consumer subsidies (especially food subsidies) was the main target. Reform application was delayed many times to avoid social and political instabilities, but in 1988/89, under extreme pressure by the development agencies, the government moved gradually towards the implementation of these changes. In 1994/95, the government's annual report announced that the first stage of this economic reform was successful, and Egypt was rewarded by external creditors, with a huge cut of external debt and some relief of debt services. But the other side of economic reform was the heavy burden placed on middle class and poor people to survive the severe crunch of continuous increases in costs of living (food, housing, energy, transportation, medical care, and education). In general, the economic reform failed to reduce poverty and malnutrition.^ Wheat is the foundation of the Egyptian diet; it provides the bulk of caloric intake for the average Egyptian. This thesis utilizes detailed multiple regression analyses to demonstrate to what extent the wheat supply (domestic production and imports) was affected by external and internal economic changes. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^