Highly promising outlook for Egyptian table grapes - FreshFruitPortal.com

Highly promising outlook for Egyptian table grapes

Highly promising outlook for Egyptian table grapes

Favorable weather conditions during production coupled with solid market demand point towards a positive table grape season for Egypt this year. Egyptian table grapes red Pico - panorama

Following an early end to India's grape supply, Egypt looks set for a clear run on the European market, as well as growing interest from Asia and Africa.

Local producer-exporters say this year's crop has benefited from a very good winter period, with frequent rainfall and sufficient cold hours which have guaranteed a good bud break.

Rising temperatures since winter have also provided the perfect conditions to bring forward the start of the season by around a week and ensure a good quality offer.

"We are very positive that we are approaching a very good season with an early start," explains Heike Hagenguth, business development manager at Pico Modern Agriculture Company, one of Egypt’s foremost fresh produce exporters.

"The weather has been mostly in favor of our grapes, with warm temperatures starting about 10 days earlier than last year, which has led to early production," she tells www.freshfruitportal.com.

"Quality is also good in terms of sugar brix, berry sizes, bunch sizes and weight."

Exports on the up

Egypt sells the bulk of its grape crop on the local market but exports are rising and currently account for around 7-10% of output or 140,000 metric tons (MT), says Nader Hussein of Ragab Farms, a leading Egyptian grower-exporter of grapes, citrus, pomegranates and pears.

Since 2008, Egypt's grape export value has risen from US$161 million to some US$224 million in 2012, according to International Trade Center (ITC) calculations based on United Nation Comtrade statistics.

"Expectations for the coming 2014 season are very high – for export volume as well as income," points out South Africa-born Hussein, who has been growing fruit in Egypt for the past five years.

"Exports will increase because of newly planted areas that are coming in production and also more export markets that are coming to the fore."

Egypt’s 2014 grape exports got underway during week 20, with the bulk of the crop headed for the European Union (EU), which remains the biggest and most established market by far.

Within the region, the U.K. leads the way, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, while Russia rounds-off the top five export destinations.

Although Egypt enjoys a strong position in the EU, Hussein claims competition is squeezing its supply window.

"Egypt has always had a good window but it's becoming smaller with the bigger grape volumes that are arriving from India and also the constant improvement in their quality.

"All of the major suppliers in Egypt are trying to improve their quality because this will be the determining factor to supply the market and continue producing the fruit."

This season, however, Hussein says there should be an open market for Egypt since rainfall forced India to stop exporting by April 20.

"Up to now there are still big volumes of Indian grapes in the EU that we hope will clear out during the next two weeks in time for our grapes to arrive which will hopefully give us better prices," Hussein says.

Asia and Africa present huge potential

Smaller volumes of Egyptian grapes are also shipped to the Middle East, South Africa and South East Asia where exporters see great opportunities for future growth, particularly in China provided a trade protocol can be established.

"Egypt has a good market window as well as a genuine geographic location which allows us to ship to such destinations in a reasonable time so that shelf-life or quality are not affected," Hagenguth points out.

"But Egyptian grapes are still not so well known in many Asian destinations yet."

Pico currently ships to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and a handful of other Asian destinations where demand is rising year-on-year given that the region’s market is not yet saturated with Egyptian grapes.

"The demand is due to the quality, good coloration and brix, as well as the good presentation of our fruit, which are very important factors for Asian consumers," Hagenguth explains.

Regarding China, negotiations are currently underway to permit Egyptian grape suppliers direct access to the market rather than supplying via unofficial distribution channels that reputable exporters are keen to avoid.

However, it is not yet clear when such an agreement would come into practice.

"China is a market that all exporters are waiting for but the only agreement that has been reached so far is for exports of citrus from Egypt to China," Hagenguth says.

Although Egypt’s grape exports to Asia and Africa are still very small in comparison to the volume sent to the U.K. and EU, Hussein remains confident for the future if the right varieties can be supplied.

"There is a window in the Asia which I think could be better used, but I don’t think there are enough new cultivars in Egypt to supply this market yet," he says.

"Only some Red Globes and Autumn Royals have been sold to China so far."

Hagenguth confirms that China is looking for large, seeded grapes and especially Red Globes.

"Moonballs – a large-sized, seeded white variety – could also be of interest to China as well as other similar new varieties that Egypt is developing," she adds.

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