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Hussein Marei - Marei Nursery
The fluctuating state of Egyptian citrus
The citrus industry sees competition from all regions of the world: countries such as the USA (California), Australia, South Africa, Morocco, Pakistan, China, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Egypt are household names in the industry. There are many types and varieties of citrus and each has special requirements and methods to produce.
Citrus are fruits that require precision and knowledge to produce high quality due to the sensitivity of the fruit to the climate and pests.
According to Owner, Hussein Marei, of the Marei Nursery in Egypt, during the early years of citrus cultivation in Egypt, “Different varieties of citrus were brought into Egypt from abroad – the local farmers had little or no knowledge of the varieties and advanced cultivation methods. This is one of the reasons why my late father established the nursery in the late 90’s with the primary intention of introducing high quality varieties and sharing new propagation methods, helping Egyptian growers achieve better production and returns on their crops."
To develop this in depth knowledge Marei insisted on travelling the globe searching for different techniques, varieties, and knowledge. "Our nursery partnered with other nurseries in Australia, Spain, South Africa and the US to further develop the nursery. Furthermore, we are executive members in the International Society of Citrus Nurserymen(ISCN).”
Currently, Marei Nursery has around 250 varieties of citrus including grapefruits, easy peelers, pomelos, limes, lemons, Valencias, Navels and more. The nursery has a capacity of 500,000 trees per year. “We also test our varieties in different soil types to see their performance in the Egyptian climate. We also invite growers to experience and taste our produce.” Marei adds.
Citrus and more
In terms of the recipients of Egyptian citrus, Russia remains the largest importer. But each region has its own preference, which is why for growers it is important to have a diversified field. “Our lemons typically go to Russia and Europe. We are expecting a large increase in exports to Russia next June because of the World Cup."
Grapefruit and Navels on the other hand are in higher demand in the Far East. It is perfect for Egypt because during the Chinese New year, China’s Navel season has already ended. Generally lemons, mandarins and grapefruit are seen as only for export produce. While Valencias and navels are the backbone of the Egyptian market.”
There have been a lot of fluctuations in price and performance for citrus. According to Marei, “We had to down size our operations to 2,000 trees a year, and we’ve seen other nurseries shut down. In 2016 we’ve seen prices improve again and the demand has risen. Right now there are a lot of uncertified nurseries who have been taking advantage of the high demand and inflated prices of citrus.”
The devaluation of the Egyptian pound has recently helped the industry. This has propelled the season to be a strong one. Marei added, “Profits have been amazing for the past few months, and growers have been reminded of the potential of citrus. Growers need able to demand for higher prices because the prices of fertilizers, cartons and energy have gone up because of devaluation of our currency. But this has proven to be okay, because the Egyptian people can afford the local products.”
Marei concluded that Egypt has a lot of opportunities for the short and long term. Exploring the potential of industrial processing, utilizing grade 2 and 3 fruit is a major point. But in the long run Egypt still has the potential to be the biggest player in the industry. It is a sub-tropical country blessed with a diverse climate. And given the legacy that pioneers such as the Marei nursery are developing, the Egyptian growers are well equipped to take a lead.
For more information:
Marei Nursery - Egypt
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