An Egypt-based grower-exporter has made a successful entrance into the domestic e-commerce sector, following years of shipping to markets like Europe and the Middle East.
EBA Group - a mango and pomegranate producer that also exports produce from third-party growers - launched a B2C online shop in June last year called Elmazr3a.com ('Elmazra' means 'farm' in Arabic), providing Egyptians with export-grade fruit and vegetables that had traditionally been sent abroad.
The company's executive director Omar El-Etriby said that Egypt's service economy was well established, with online deliveries for many products available since the early 1990s. The e-commerce sector has been seeing substantial growth in recent years - driven by a large and young population - and is expected to reach around US$2.7 billion by 2020.
He said that a move onto the e-commerce space was therefore a "natural next step" for the company.
"We are facilitating access to premium produce and varieties that you wouldn't normally find within the market place," he said.
The first domestic market sales were made a few years ago when El-Etriby started receiving requests from friends to deliver mangoes. Demand quickly soared, and he decided to partner with Good Agricultural Practices-certified farms to have a greater selection of produce to sell to locals directly.
He said that while the fruit and vegetables fetched similar prices on local wholesale markets as produce from non-export farms and was therefore not a viable option, through selling online prices tended to be in a similar range to what could be obtained in foreign markets.
"We're aiming at the middle-class consumer. There have been some organic farms selling directly to consumers over the last three or four years, but it's really expensive, very niche and not there for people to be able to consistently purchase," he said.
"But if they want to eat something that's clean, safe, and grown properly, then export-grade produce is the middle ground."
One of the challenges so far has been trying to change the behavior of consumers, who are used to ordering over the phone or social media platforms as opposed to a delivery website. But he said that with strong demand for high-quality produce combined with very few competitors on in the e-commerce fruit and vegetable delivery sector, a good future lies ahead.
For certain varieties of mangoes like Ewiss - an Egyptian favorite - local demand and prices have been so high that El-Etriby has stopped exporting entirely.
And for export clients, the website acts as a "shop window", showcasing the numerous products on offer and enabling buyers to explore different varieties of produce that they may not have previously considered, he added.
This year the company is set for a big expansion in its fruit and vegetable offerings, aiming to increase its range of products by around 40%.