Exporters of agricultural products aim to enter the markets of the far east, especially India, China, Malaysia, and Japan. India and China have both been importing large quantities of onions, oranges, and potatoes over the past few years.
Calls have echoed seeking more support and export subsidies to exhibitions in the far east in order to promote Egyptian products and acquire new customers.
Mohamed Bakr, member of the Agriculture Export Council and director of Al-Gamal for Agricultural Investment, said that China and Malaysia are the two most promising markets in the far east region, considering the high population rates. He added that his company has already received requests for exporting potatoes and onions to Malaysia in the coming season.
Marketing themselves abroad, however, is one of the main problems facing the dreams of exporters of expanding into that region. Bakr noted that Egyptian Commercial Service offices in those countries are not active. In addition, maritime shipping lines to that area are rare, while air freight is rather expensive.
Bakr pointed out that the food commodities can go bad in a short time; hence, Egypt tends to export onions, potatoes, citrus, and garlic, which stay fresh for longer periods.
Moreover, Bakr said that the high cost of shipping and marketing to these countries erodes the Egyptian products’ competitiveness, urging the Ministry of Industry and Trade to encourage exports.
“The Indian market is only temporary,” Bakr said. He explained that it has indeed requested large quantities of Egyptian onions over two years, but that was due to a flood that occurred and impacted agriculture in the area, forcing the country to compensate its losses by importing crops it is short of.
Another member of the council, Mustafa Al-Nagary, said that Egyptian onions have been witnessing a large demand in the Egyptian market, predicting its continuation.
He noted that the council aims to increase the size of commercial trade between Egypt and India, as well as export more goods to the latter in the coming period. He pointed out that the volume of trade between both countries is currently standing at a value of $3.6bn, with Egypt exporting mostly petroleum and chemical products at $1.5bn.
Furthermore, he noted that Indian imports of onions were ranked second after citrus this year, with an increase of 76% compared to last year. Onion imports recorded $230m for 560,000 tonnes, compared to $130m collected for 322,000 tonnes of onions from Egypt last year.
Exports of the Agriculture Export Council until June have increased by 20% year-on-year. The amount of exports increased from 1.170m tonnes last season to 1.350m tonnes this season.
Al-Nagary said that the high cost of air freight—which is not an adequate option given Egypt’s current economic circumstances—makes it even more difficult for the government to subsidise air freight to the region. He added that improving logistics of maritime shipping can, on the other hand, make a big difference, and support Egyptian exports to the far east countries.
He highlighted several studies indicating that China is about to become one of the largest consuming markets in the world, signaling its importance for exporters.
He called upon the government to increase the value of export subsidies to undiscovered markets, which could help Egyptian exports prevail in a short period.
Member of the Agriculture Export Council Mohamed Abdel Hamid also agreed that far east countries are very promising markets for Egyptian exports. He noted that China alone has 1.6bn consumers. The problem facing exports, however, is the high cost of exhibitions there and the inability of exporters to participate in exhibitions at their own cost.
He pointed out—being chairperson of Agri-Pure for medical herbs—that the sector pushes exporters to certain markets. For example, to export medical herbs, the importing country must have the technology needed to extract the active ingredients from them. He also highlighted the importance of far east countries to the medical herbs sector.
Abdel Hamid said that exporters are unable to travel and attend exhibitions in the far east, urging the state for support.