CAIRO — “There is a global conspiracy behind its disappearance.” This is a common justification reiterated by Egyptian industrialists and officials to explain the decline in the country's cotton economy. Egypt was previously a world leader in cotton production, its economy based upon this sector, with cotton bringing in foreign currency, as it was considered the most valuable cotton in the textile industry.
Despite the importance of this unique Egyptian crop, successive Egyptian governments have failed over the last 20 years to reform its production. Cities such as El-Mahalla el-Kubra and Kafr el-Dawwar depend entirely upon this sector, for which former President Gamal Abdel Nasser set up large textile factories that have now stopped operations, such as the Misr Beida Dyers and Misrayon & Polyester Fiber Co. This crisis threatens 1.2 million Egyptians and has led to losses of 1.8 billion Egyptian pounds ($235 million) in 2014.