Things are sometimes scary for a Dutchman in Egypt, as is the massive difference in capacity to combat the coronavirus. It does, however, look like the Egyptian citrus sector will be one of the few that will make it through this dire situation successfully.
“I read somewhere that 205 countries in the world have been affected by the coronavirus. When I google for the amount of countries in the world, I'm told there are 197 in total. That should tell you something on the size of the coronavirus, as apparently it's swept through more countries in the world than the ones that actually exist!” - Hans Korsten.
Hans Korsten has, over the 31 years he has lived in Egypt, worked as an agent for various companies. He, therefore, knows the country well. Egypt has also put stringent measures in place in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, Hans says. “The Egyptian government is doing everything it can to get this dangerous ‘global phenomenon’ under control. There is a partial lockdown, and people are working from home. Schools and hospitality businesses are closed. They are giving the public as much information too. We do not know what to expect. But in many areas, there are low levels of hygiene and low, or no, levels of education. That will not help us fight this virus as well as we can. That is a fact.”
Hans Korsten with the empty streets behind him
The situation has become a true disaster for humankind. It does, however, seem that the citrus season is anything but lost. People want vitamin C, which is causing out-of-control demand. “The Egyptian citrus season has lower harvest estimates. Prices were, therefore, decent from the get-go. They are now heading to an unprecedented high level. That is not deterring consumers. The realization that vitamin c strengthens the immune system is justified. So, one or more bags of oranges are now at the top of people’s shopping lists. This is the perfect situation for our industry’s citrus branch. But, unfortunately, it is also a deathblow for some other products, including watermelons and pineapples. These sales have just about stopped,” Korsten explains.
It is not all positive news for the citrus season, though. Transportation for exports is still a little scarce and container prices have skyrocketed. “Egypt has pulled out all the stops to meet the huge demand. But, a future lockdown would throw a spanner in the works. There is currently increasing speculation about a total lockdown, but the government has not decided to go for it just yet. The scarcity of refrigerated containers is also becoming a problem worldwide. Sea transit rates are going through the roof too. So, not everything that glitters is gold. But the citrus industry will be one of the few sectors to see a positive in these dire times.”
According to Korsten, the Egyptian health care system and government are not capable of absorbing these enormous blows, much like Europe is having trouble with the virus. “Like everywhere else, the Egyptian economy, as well as its people, are being hammered. But, in Egypt, the authorities do not have good reserves. They, therefore, cannot ease the suffering of the largely poverty-stricken population. Just about all the sectors are affected. There are practically no exceptions. It is a catastrophe of unknown magnitude for most people in Egypt. For myself, due to my age I've found myself stuck at home for the past two weeks, with my balcony as the only option to get some fresh air." he concludes.
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