Egypt’s table grape season has kicked off two weeks earlier than normal, according to a representative of Giza-based Trade Waves.
The company’s general manager, Ahmed Hodaiby, said the campaign had begun around May 8 with the white Prime Seedless and red Starlight varieties, followed by Sugraone and Flame Seedless.
Hodaiby attributed the early start to weather conditions over recent months.
“We didn’t have a cold winter, and the warm weather started early,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal, adding he expected industry export volumes to remain relatively flat at around 100,000 metric tons (MT).
The majority of volume goes to the European market, with much of the late crop doing to Asia, he said.
Prices in the European market in general are “normal” at present, with a more challenging outlook for red grapes than white grapes, according to Hodaiby.
“There is good demand for white grapes this year. The starting price is not too high but it is acceptable,” he said.
However, he said there was “very little demand” for red grapes as the market was still full of stocks from Chile and South Africa, and he did not expect the situation to improve much over the coming weeks.
“If the market is full of stocks and then Egyptian stocks begin to arrive, then you are filling the market again and there is no gap. When this happens, normally the market won’t improve, but hopefully it won’t collapse,” he said.
In addition, he said the Spanish season was expected to start early around mid-June, reducing Egypt’s window. The Egyptian season has a core of around five weeks in the European market and is typically followed by the Italian campaign, he added.
After a few weeks in Europe, Egyptian exporters with late varieties typically switch over the Asian markets, he said.
“This is because the European prices go down, and while the Asian market prices are not high, they are normally flat. So if someone has late varieties they switch to Asia for three or four more weeks in Asia,” he said.
This will be Egypt’s first full season of market access to China, as export protocols were signed late in the last campaign.
However, Hodaiby did not anticipate Egypt would ship large volumes to China, noting that exporters would overlap with the domestic Chinese season.
“They have the domestic grapes at the same time and the Chinese grapes are quite cheap, so unless Egypt offers something extraordinary it will be very difficult to compete with the Chinese production,” he said.
Exports may increase in the future, but Hodaiby said Egypt would need to offer China different varieties from the European-focused ones that currently dominate the industry.
Egypt’s other main Asian markets are Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and India.
In the European market, he said most of the premium fruit was shipped to the U.K., with Germany and the Netherlands also big markets.
In Egypt, many growers are planting new varieties and also trialing four or five black cultivars. Hodaiby said that two black varieties are currently grown commercially in the country but neither of them has proved to be very successful.
Photos: Courtesy of Trade Waves