Egypt to produce sunflower oil in Sudan, curb imports

CAIRO, April 7 (Reuters) - Egypt aims to become self-sufficient in sunflower oil by using farmland provided by neighbouring Sudan as it moves to end large purchases on world markets, Supply Minister Bassem Ouda said on Sunday.

He said private Egyptian investors would plant sunflower on 500,000 feddan (210,000 hectares) of land earmarked for joint agricultural projects under a deal reached by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and Sudanese President Hassan Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum last Friday.

Production will start within a few months and enable Egypt to phase out imports, which consume scarce hard currency reserves.

“After that, we will be able to satisfy our needs of sunflower oil and we will not need to buy from the international market,” Ouda said. He did not say how much oil could be produced in Sudan or when it would replace imports.

With foreign investment stalled and tourism receipts down due to two years of political unrest since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is seeking to reduce purchases of commodities for hard currency.

Egypt, the most populous Arab state, is a major importer of vegetable oils. State commodity enterprises Meditrade and the Food Industries Holding Company between them bought at least 110,000 tonnes of sunflower oil for import in the first quarter of this year, according to Reuters data on tenders.

Sudan will provide Egyptian investors with 2 million feddan of land north of the capital Khartoum to set up an industrial complex to produce biofuel, drugs and other goods, Mursi told a news conference at the end of his two-day visit to Sudan.

Ouda declined to say when Egypt would buy wheat again on international markets, adding that he was focused on bringing in a bumper domestic harvest.

Egyptian officials are holding weekly meetings with foreign suppliers including the United States, “and we will only deal with the ones who give us the best offers and payment facilities when times come for that”, he added. (Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Jane Baird)