Cairo: Egypt will offer within days to lease 50,000 feddans (53,800 acres) for agri-business projects in North Sinai, the irrigation minister said on Thursday.

The most populous Arab country said in April it would offer about 100,000 acres for agri-business in North Sinai on a 49-year lease but only to domestic investors.

The land will be offered as a concession right and will be used for agricultural reclamation and agricultural manufacturing projects, Mohammad Nasser Al Deen Allam, minister of water resources and irrigation, told a news conference.

He added that the ministries of agriculture and trade would invite tenders for the land after the Eid holiday, which ends tomorrow.

The Industrial Development Authority (IDA) said last year Egypt would start up its agri-industrial zones project in June 2009. It said Egypt could raise as much as 66 billion Egyptian pounds ($11.6 billion) by 2020 through the scheme.

Agriculture Minister Ameen Abaza had previously said Egypt would invite tenders in March for 50,000 acres of land in North Sinai for agri-business projects.

Egypt's arable area totals about 3.3 million hectares (8.1 million acres), about one-quarter of which is land reclaimed from the desert. However, the reclaimed lands only add 7 per cent to the total value of agricultural production. Even though only 3 per cent of the land is arable, it is extremely productive and can be cropped two or even three times per year. Most land is cropped at least twice a year, but agricultural productivity is limited by salinity.

Inflation at 10.9% in 12 months to August

Urban consumer inflation in Egypt was 10.9 per cent in the 12 months to August, compared to 10.7 per cent in July, the state-run CAPMAS statistics agency said on its website. Five analysts cited forecasts for urban inflation — the most closely watched indicator of prices — that ranged from 9.6 per cent to 11.2 per cent. The average of the forecasts was 10.4 per cent.