Egypt Economic Conditions in the 1950’s

By | January 3, 2022

The economic and social policy of the regime established in 1952 is defined by the government as the tendency to build “a socialist, democratic and cooperative society”. To contribute to the development of the economy, a Permanent National Productivity Council was created in 1952 and various measures were adopted since then, starting with the agrarian reform of September 1952, which established the definitive abolition of the feudal system, with the elimination of the ancient extensive land holdings and the establishment of agricultural units with a minimum of 5 feddan. The maximum extent of private property was set at 200 feddan (each feddan corresponds to 0.42 ha). More than 240,000 ha of land were then expropriated, of which 175,000 belonged to 1768 owners who exceeded the maximum allowed individual and about 65,000 ha to owners who had already granted them to small tenants. The 84,000 ha already belonging to the waqf assets were also transferred to the body in charge of agrarian reform, which, once the operations were completed, in 1960, will benefit about 1.5 million people, with the distribution of 800,000 feddan. In the interest of the assignees, the formation of agricultural cooperatives, already quite numerous, was envisaged. Following the reform, the distribution of landed property in 1956 was as follows:

The application of the new agricultural legislation had already led to a notable increase in agricultural production in 1957, above all due to the increase in unit yields of individual crops, an increase which official data show to have been very significant for some products.

Thus in the wheat sector (22% increase in average yield over the period 1953-57), barley (17% over the same period), flax (13%), etc. The same is observed for some of the summer crops: in the period 1953-56 the average yield of rice increased by 28%, that of sugar cane by 17%, that of peanuts by 16%, etc. In absolute values ​​it is noted, for example, that for wheat from 629,000 ha, and 11,940,000 q, in 1951 it went to 636,000 ha, and to 14,670,000 q in 1957. For cotton, compared to 3,440. 000 q of fiber and 6,190,000 q of seeds in 1951 (out of 832,000 ha) in 1957 there was a production of 4,050,000 q of fiber and 7,770,000 q of seeds, on a cultivated area of ​​764,000 ha. Corn, grown on 695,000 ha in 1951 (14,210,000 q), occupied 743,000 ha in 1957, with a production of 14,980,000 q (there were 16,520. 000 in 1956). As for barley, in 1951 on sown on 50,000 ha, with 990,000 q of product, and in 1957 on 56,000 ha, with 1,310,000 q of yield. The rice area has also expanded considerably: 205,000 ha in 1951, with 6,200,000 q of production and 307,000 ha in 1957, with 17,090,000 q of harvest. Between 1952 and 1956 the areas of vegetable crops (43,000 ha of new gardens), orchards (5700 ha of new plantings),  sugar cane (7300 ha of new plantations).  The area cultivated with sesame and peanuts has also greatly increased (respectively 14,000 and 10,000 ha, with 110,000 and 190,000 q in 1951, compared to 18,000 and 15,000 ha, with 144,000 and 310,000 q in 1957).

As part of the Egyptian program for doubling the currently cultivated area, with rational storage and distribution of the Nile waters, an integral reclamation program on over 125,000 ha has already been in place since 1942, the reactivation of the oases of ed-Dākhlah and of el-Khārgah, and the general improvement of drainage and irrigation throughout the territory. New lands of 42,000 ha have already been cultivated and others are in the process of being cultivated. For the reactivation of the oases, water lifting and distribution works for approximately 4200 ha are planned. Among the various reclamation initiatives, the one concerning the AlTahrir area, between Cairo and Alexandria, deserves a particular mention; the work, undertaken in 1953 at a rather slow pace (about 40 ha per year) is now proceeding quickly;

In the agricultural sector, the solutions of greatest moment in terms of production and employment have finally led to the elaboration of the project for the construction of a large dam in the upper Egypt, in Aswan, capable of cultivating about 2 million feddan, of which 1.3 today consist of deserted lands. Once the work is completed, which will take at least 10 years, agricultural income is destined to increase by more than half. The cost of the project, at constant prices, was estimated at 280 million Egyptian pounds to be distributed over a period of 16 years.

The zootechnical patrimony in 1955 consisted of 1,362,100 cattle, 1,323,000 buffaloes, 1,237,000 sheep, 743,550 goats, 927,350 donkeys, 42,450 horses, 9800 mules, 162,450 camels and 18,750 pigs: few changes occurred, for example, compared to the situation of 1947, except in sheep and goats, which is in sharp decline. Fishing, which has always been of considerable importance, in 1957 yielded 1,026,000 q of fish, also obtained in significant measure from inland waters.

Mining activity is particularly intense in the phosphate sector (500,000 t in 1951; 585,000 t in 1957). The extraction of other minerals, such as manganese, iron, lead, gold (233 kg in 1957) is not negligible, and for some items on the rise. The extraction of oil has had a great boost in recent years, which in 1957 had already reached 2,362,000 tonnes and will soon reach 4,000,000 tonnes per year; the Sudr area in Sinai is expected to become the most important Egyptian oil production area; already in August 1959 the first well opened in this field yielded almost 700 tons per day. The extraction of brine in 1957 yielded 550,000 tons of product.

The industrial apparatus existing today in Egypt draws its origin, mainly, from occasional reasons, connected to the isolation of markets due to war events, and from the protective systems subsequently adopted, with which the responsible governments have tried to consolidate at least part of the initiatives that arose during periods of emergency. The new government’s program foresees the development of the steel, mining and processing industries. The first five-year plan is expected to be completed by 1962 (for the expected results in terms of national income, see below: Finances), most of which is financed by substantial loans from the USSR, the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic and Japan.

The industrial sector employed, in 1957, about 500,000 workers, of which nearly 250,000 in over 3500 companies each with no less than 10 employees. In recent times, particular attention has been paid to the fundamental problem of electricity (with special regard to that of water origin, also due to the lack of coal). When built, the large Aswan plant will more than double the current electricity production (which was about 1.7 billion kWh in 1956, mostly of thermal origin) by adding 1.9 billion kWh (of which 1.3 to be used for the fertilizer industry).

The textile industry is in a prominent position among the manufacturing industries (employing almost 105,000 workers), and has expanded strongly in recent years: in the cotton sector the number of spindles between 1952 and 1957 has increased from 539,000 to 822,000 and that of looms from 1730 to 18,240, and the production of cotton yarns from 55,700 t to about 85,000, while that of fabrics rose from 220 million to over 250 million. A very strong leap forward is also observed in the silk sector, where, in the interval 1952-56, the number of meters of fabric produced increased from 36 to 60 million, just as the production of silk yarns increased from 4000 to 9675 tons.. There are also numerous factories of wool yarns and fabrics (42,250 spindles and 685 looms in 1952 and 46,800 spindles and 790 looms in 1956) and rayon. The chemical industry, alongside modest already existing fertilizer factories, in the near future it will align a new, grandiose one, capable of producing 370,000 tons per year with the energy that will be supplied by the Aswan power plant. A rubber products factory has been in operation since 1956, mainly for the automotive sector. For Egypt 2009, please check

There are also large modern plants of oil mills and soap factories, ice and beer factories (97,000 hl in 1957), alcohol distilleries, which use the residues of the sugar industry, which is also important (more than 3,050,000 q in 1957), cement factories (more than 1,500,000 t in 1958), etc. In addition to recent plants in the milling field and in the pasta factory, in the main centers, the tobacconist’s factory has still strengthened its equipment, which however processes imported products. Two other industrial activities have expanded considerably in recent times: the refining of petroleum products, to adapt to the growing production and increase in consumption, and the steel and metalworking industry. The state oil refinery existing in Suez since 1922, it had already been raised in 1946 to the working capacity of 400,000 t per year and has now been further enlarged, to the point of being able to work 1,300,000 t annually. Meanwhile, other refineries have sprung up in Suez and Alexandria and another is under construction at Mustorod, at the outlet of the Suez-Cairo pipeline, 130 km long and capable of transporting 2.3 million tonnes of raw products per year. In the metallurgical and engineering sector, the steel industry is still modest (50-60,000 tons per year), absolutely inadequate to meet the needs, which in 1960 reached 400,000 tons. However, a steel plant is under construction (1959), south of Heluan, which will largely fill the deficit, being able to produce more than 250,000 tons of steel per year. In addition, new factories have been built for railway equipment, for electric cables, for ceramic articles,

In 1957 the imports came mainly from: the Soviet Union, the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States, Italy, Japan, India, China, the Netherlands, the German Democratic Republic, while the exports went especially to: the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, Japan, United States, India, Italy, Federal Republic of Germany. Between 1954 and 1957 the value of exports to the Soviet Union and the satellite countries rose from 14.1% to 47% of the total; that of imports from 5.9% to 26%.

Egypt Economic Conditions in the 1950's