Agricultural exports expanded exponentially over the past ten years to a total of $2.1bn compared to $500m in 2005, according to Chairman of the Agricultural Export Council Ali Issa.
He said the agricultural products sector is the most powerful engine for Egypt’s economic development at the moment, and that it is among the most stable sectors in the country.
Issa explained that the agricultural sector contributes to Egypt’s GDP by between 12% and 13% annually, despite the challenges faced by the sector recently. These problems most prominently include a 20%-25% increase in production costs over recent years, especially after the state adopted a plan to eliminate subsidies for energy products and several other items.
He said the government’s interest in agriculture has declined significantly, and government investment in the sector represents no more than 2% of total investment despite the fact that the sector is 28% more labour-intensive than others.
The agricultural sector’s share of annual bank loans is no greater than 2%-3%, which he attributed to the fact that investments in the sector tend to be long-term. Investors working in the field renewed their hopes that the sector will grow once again, following the announcement of the state’s large-scale project to reclaim 1.5m acres for agriculture. A total of 10,000 acres were inaugurated in Farafra in the New Valley governorate.
The Egyptian market was ranked first globally for citrus exports in 2015 and exported approximately 1.2m tonnes of citrus fruits, followed by Spain, which exports 1m tonnes annually.
The council is working to expand the base of foreign markets it works with, in particular the Chinese market. However, it will take time for Egypt to establish itself in these markets due to the presence of several strong competitors and new markets that have emerged, such as Mongolia and Morocco.
Despite the fact that the agricultural sector acquired a significant proportion of the workforce compared to other sectors, there is a need to establish intensive training programmes to develop personnel in the near future for the sector to achieve its objectives.
Issa emphasised a need to activate a role for the Agricultural Guidance Administration, affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, and return to field work, including following up with farmers daily to build their awareness of the most modern agricultural methods and how to utilise pesticides properly.
Several agricultural producers use pesticides incorrectly for several crops because they were not aware of modern methods. Foreign markets have requirements that only a specific amount of pesticides be used for products they import.
He stressed the need to intensify efforts within the Ministry of Agriculture’s agricultural research centre to improve crop productivity in the future, especially since horizontal expansion is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture at present.
The Export Council is preparing to participate in the Fruit Logistica exhibition, one of the largest exhibitions for agricultural crops in the world, in Berlin, Germany from 3-7 February. Issa said this is the first time Egypt has been named a guest of honour at the exhibition since it began participating in the Fruit Logistica exhibition 10 years ago. This achievement represented a quantum leap and will draw the attention of many world markets to Egyptian exporters, helping them enter new markets in the future.
Approximately 91 companies operating in Egypt will attend Fruit Logistica in 2016 on a total area of 1,750 metres to display their products and learn about modern global methods for transport and packaging.
The council aims to increase exports of agricultural crops this season by 7%-10% by entering several African and Asian markets, especially China. The Chinese market was opened to citrus fruit exports in 2015 and work is underway to export grapes and sugar beet. Issa noted that procedures for China’s Agricultural Quarantine require less time than other countries.
In cooperation with the Central Management of the Agricultural Quarantine, the Export Council will host a committee from China’s Agricultural Quarantine in March to study grape and beet farms and products to take a decision on whether to import them in the future.