Fresh Fruit Company Egypt aims to increase exports to EGP 60.5m in 2017, up from EGP 55m in 2016, registering an increase of 10%.
Chairperson of the company, Mostafa Samir El-Naggari, said that the volatility of the exchange rate has adversely impacted the agricultural sector’s exports, lowering it by 5%.
He added that the decrease in exports was caused by the decreased productivity of some crops, including white bean exports, which fell from 180,000 tonnes in 2015 to 120,000 tonnes in 2016.
He pointed out that agricultural export companies are now leaning towards processing food after the decision of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to float the national currency, which caused the value of the Egyptian pound to depreciate against the US dollar.
He said that the Egyptian market consumes large quantities of dried agricultural products, where the past period witnessed many Arab investors moving their investments in that field to Egypt.
He added that his company has moved towards cultivating certain crops that saw price increases after the flotation, including lentils and beans, which lowered their imports in 2016 by 22%.
He explained that the import of beans fell from 700,000 tonnes in 2015 to 600,000 tonnes last year, amid expectations of a similar trend in 2017, especially as global prices range between $260 to $300 per tonne, down from $340 per tonne in October 2016.
He noted that the company began to cultivate 50 feddans for beans and lentils, as a prelude to supplying the domestic market.
Meanwhile, he said that other companies are expanding in cultivating basic commodities, such as wheat, corn, and sugar on the back of the sugar shortage crisis that took over the country in 2016.
Fresh Fruit Company owns production lines for packaging citrus, vegetables, and fruits with a capacity of 120 tonnes per day and exports to the gulf, east Asia, and Europe.
El-Naggari also said that his company aims to export to China—a move prompted by the currency trading agreement signed between Egypt and China in late 2016.
Fresh Fruit Company was founded in 1994 and operates in exporting and importing agricultural commodities, including oranges, strawberries, white and green beans, potatoes, and peanuts.
He urged the government to improve farming conditions to encourage investment in the sector, noting that agricultural investors should find incentives to boost their investments.
He said that the company is targeting to establish an integrated project on 200 feddans to develop livestock production and expand in producing strategic crops, including maize and wheat.
On the current problems pertaining to rice, El-Naggari said that the Ministry of Supply has failed to manage the situation, having set a price of EGP 2,300 to EGP 2,400 per tonne early this season, prompting farmers and traders to store rise.
He added that increasing the price after the flotation to EGP 3,000 per tonne did not solve the issue, as prices hiked to EGP 5,200 before returning to normal.
He stressed the importance of filtering ration cards to exclude non-eligible beneficiaries, adding that the subsidy should become in-cash to leave the prices of basic commodities in the market pegged to supply and demand mechanisms.
He pointed out that paddy rice prices had begun to decline over the past two weeks, but prices rebounded again with the Ministry of Supply announcing an agreement to supply rice by direct order from some companies at EGP 6,000 per tonne.
Moreover, El-Naggari, who is also head of the Rice Committee at the Export Council for Agricultural Crops, said that there is about 4.5m tonnes of paddy rice—equivalent to 2.7m tonnes of white rice—currently in storage, while Egyptian consumption is only 2.1-2.2m tonnes of white rice, including 70,000 tonnes of subsidised rice.
He added that the lack of rice stocks pushed traders to take charge of supply and demand, hence the prices, noting that if the government left the market up to supply and demand from the beginning the prices would not have increased.