By Mohamed Abdelmonsef
On 20 November, Egypt will export its first shipment of citrus fruits for the 2014/2015 season, according to Mohamed Abd El-Hady, Chairman of the Citrus Committee at the Agriculture Export Council. He expects Egypt’s exports to reach approximately 100 countries this season.
Abd El-Hady added that Saudi Arabia and Russia account for 50% of the Egyptian exports, or 250,000 tonnes annually each, followed by the GCC countries, UK, and the Netherlands.
Abd El-Hady stated that 98% of exports are comprised of navel oranges and summer season oranges, which cost $400 per tonne for exports.
He said there is an increase in internal transport costs to EGP 2,000/tonne, in addition to customs clearance fees worth EGP 4,000 at the port and maritime shipping agent commissions. He added that this increase in pricing represent significant challenges for the exporter.
Abd El-Hady stated that it is important to open the Al-Salam Bridge, at the Suez Canal, for truck transport movement. The opening would facilitate transport to East Port Said, since exports there account for 30% -40% of total citrus fruits exported through the port.
He also said that trucks currently depend on ferries to move from across the canal, causing a delay of up to four days for transportation. This could cause container ships to leave the port before it receives the goods, adding that ships should enter and leave ports at fixed times.
Abd El-Hady said competitors include the Mediterranean countries, especially Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, and Israel. These countries’ prices are similar to that of Egyptian products, but their shipping costs are less due to proximity to the European Union.
He pointed to an increase in supply compared to demand for citrus fruit crops. Annual production amounts to approximately 5.4m tonnes, which makes marketing summer oranges through August difficult because the fruit ripens in April. He added that around 300,000 tonnes went to waste due to the difficulties faced by local marketing and export efforts.
Abd El-Hady added that the increase in production equipment costs will not affect crop prices this season, but it will in upcoming years, because citrus fruits are cultivated over a period of 20 years.
He said small producers producing under13,000 tonnes/acres should cultivate other crops to maintain a balance between supply and demand, adding that average economic production lies between 20-26 tonnes.
He also said that the number of citrus fruit processing stations in Egypt has reached 90, all of which have the capacity to process 2m tonnes of citrus fruits. However, Egypt’s share in the global market has ranged from 1m-1.2m tonnes over the past ten years, meaning that these stations are running at only 50% of production capacity.
Mohamed Sami El-Melegy, former Citrus Department Chairman of the Horticulture Research Institute, emphasised producing and exporting citrus fruits in the form of juices, condensed juices, or jams. This would aim for better capabilities in covering the production increase and increase the economic value of the product.
He put forward that commercial investigators in Egyptian embassies abroad open new markets for Egyptian products in order to increase the country’s share of citrus fruits on the global market. He added that several foreign delegations are currently visiting Egypt to learn about the quality of Egyptian products.END