The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture seeks to develop its exports through a plan to increase production this year.
Hussein Henawy, head of the Union Producers and Exporters of Horticultural Crops (UPEHC) affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the government seeks to maximise its horticultural exports revenue, especially after Egypt occupied second place globally in citrus exports at the end of 2015.
He added that the union works on the development of agricultural activities in cooperation with small farmers to increase exports to 50%.
Henawy pointed out that the Egyptian farmer will receive a certificate attesting to his following of standard agricultural practices, which ensures the absence of pesticide residues in their products as well as the disposal of empty containers in safe ways.
The Ministry of Agriculture has signed a protocol of cooperation with some international donors of these certificates to small farmers, and another agreement with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services to train about 52,000 young people on standard agriculture activities.
Henawy noted that these training courses would develop the farmer’s skills for taking care of crops, which would contribute to exporting at least 50% of production, rather than 20%.
The Ministry of Agriculture awarded 65 people after they completed their training at 80 cooperative associations in Fayoum, Beni Suef, and Minya to oversee the training of farmers.
He added that small farmers, who want to export their produce, are forced to sell their production outputs to agents at lower prices.
Henawy asserted that the ministry’s development plan includes tightening control on agricultural exports in the coming period, to assure high quality of exports according to international standards.
He pointed out that some small farmers resort to selling their products in the perishable terminal affiliated to the Horticultural Export Improvement Association (HEIA) at the Cairo International Airport, which operates on a brokerage system.
Henawy added that the ministry will tighten controls on these areas through quarantine to prevent the exporting of shipments that violate standards.
Many countries halted imports of agricultural products from Egypt after media reports in the United States claimed that Egyptian strawberries caused hepatitis because the crops had been allegedly irrigated by wastewater.
Henawy said that the sterilising of an acre of strawberries costs about EGP 43,000, not to mention other production inputs, asserting that export companies obtain quality certificates from foreign agencies.
He added that the new procedures for exports examine the product’s quality according to the specifications set by the importing country, at the Central Laboratory for Pesticide Residues, to avoid the rejection of shipments.
If a certain product is rejected by a country, it does not mean that it was bad, rather it means that it only does not follow the specifications set by that country, according to Henawy.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia has developed their import specifications similar to the United States, adding that Germany has the most difficult standards, and other Gulf states will also develop their specifications.
He added that agricultural exports increased to 3.5m tonnes in 2016 compared to 3.3m tonnes in 2015.
Henawy explained that entering new markets is important, but the companies should study such markets before they start exporting, especially as Egypt faces logistical problems with African countries due to the lack of fast shipping lines.
In case the cost of shipping is high compared with other countries, the companies should expand in existing markets.
Henawy asserted that the opening of new markets and acquiring consumer confidence in the current foreign market, only needs to “develop the quality of agricultural crops to fit foreign consumers”.