Egypt is now the world’s leading exporter of cit-rus fruit – even selling oranges to Spain, its nearest rival in the sector.
According to the Central Administration for Agricultural Quarantine (CAAQ), an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, demand for Egyptian fruit and vegetables has risen sharply despite the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It said exports of Egyptian fruit and vegetables had reached 2.77 million tonnes since the beginning of this year – and is expected to be about double that amount by the end of 2020 at an estimated 5.5 million tonnes.
In statement issued last week, Ahmed Al-Attar, head of the CAAQ, said exports mainly included citrus fruit, potatoes, and onions.
Egypt is exporting 1.8 million tonnes of citrus fruit a year, and accounts for 40 per cent of the global exports of oranges.
He said since January the country had exported 1.2 million tonnes of citrus fruit, 550,000 tonnes of potatoes, and about 400,000 tonnes of onions.
Mr Al-Attar said: “Egypt has been able to impose itself strongly in the field of exporting oranges globally despite intense competition from Spain.”
In addition to its traditional markets – more than 140 countries, including those in the European Union, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Serbia – Egypt recently began exporting dates to Australia, oranges to New Zealand, various citrus fruit to Brazil, and potatoes to Mauritius.
“This was done despite the difficulty of opening up new markets and the length of the negotiations that can come with such a process,” he said.
“Egypt is now even exporting oranges to Spain, the second largest exporter of citrus fruit,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Min-istry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation said Egypt prided itself on its quality checks and monitoring of its products right to the customer’s door.
He said the number of citrus fruit trees in the country had been increased by 5.1 per cent last year – and 44 per cent in total over the past 10 years – contributing to an increase in production of about 10 per cent.
Overall, Egypt has about 12.3 million orange trees capable of producing 3.45 million tonnes of fruit and earning $662 million last year.
Increases in demand from Arab and European countries, partly driven by the coronavirus lockdowns, is expected to result in a five to 10 per cent rise in Egyptian vegetable and fruit exports.
According to the Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, Russia tops the list of countries importing oranges grown in Egypt, with Russian imports of Egyptian oranges reaching 284,000 ton-nes, followed by Saudi Arabia at 271,000 tonnes, China at 214,000 tonnes, and the Netherlands at 130,000 tonnes.