Egyptian citrus exporter reflects on new markets

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Egyptian citrus exporter reflects on new markets

With Egyptian citrus under reconsideration by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), exporters face more than a new market possibility. They also face big questions about what such a major market will require. oranges_small

One Egyptian exporter spoke with on the demands of big markets and the push to improve quality. Sherif Mezar, business development manager of El Gebaly, explained that although the U.S. offers opportunity, it also offers challenges.

"The US market is a very competitive market and a very big market for us, but unfortunately we don’t always have the premium quality," Mezar said.

"But if we had the opportunity to enter, it would be a big chance to expand."

Mezar referred to Florida in particular as major competitor, if Egypt were to enter the U.S. market. He said, however, that the East Coast market has potential and would be the regional focus for Egypt.

Regarding cold treatment requested by APHIS, he said the requirement would not be a problem, as long as exporters maintained quality standards.

Currently, his company exports to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, the U.K., Finland and the Ukraine, among other places. The company focuses mainly on navel oranges, Valencia oranges, lemons, mandarins and small quantities of grapefruit.

In terms of growth, Mezar explained that Egypt still has some improvements to make before it can reach "premium" markets like Japan. He said the nation is producing good quality fruit but is still pushing to reach the highest quality standards.

"My eye is expanding to the Far East. The Far East is very challenging and very interesting for us. This area is rising. Everybody is turning their eyes to the East – Singapore, Malaysia, India, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia. And there's Afghanistan, not many people are focusing on this market," he said.

He mentioned other traditionally overlooked markets like Ghana, Cameroon and Chad as possible opportunities to tap into still undiscovered potential.

For his company's plantations in particular, the season has been favorable and lent itself to new markets this year like Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Poland and Ireland. Part of expansion can be attributed to good weather and lack of pests at El Gebaly facilities, he explained.

"For us we have zero record of any problem. It was a very good season. We have very good growth compared to last year," he said.

Overall, he said the Egyptian industry has grown 9% compared to the same quarter last year. His company, he said, has grown 12%.

"Taking into consideration strike and other problems, this is a big achievement for Egypt. We have new farms, we have new plantations. Most exporters are less than 10 years old, so people are getting knowledge and getting new plantations," he said.


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