Demand for pumpkins has increased steadily over the past few years, with consumers finding more ways to include pumpkins in their diet and recipes. The Egyptian pumpkin season is in full swing, and one exporter hopes to reach the Asian markets this year. This is a challenge, as these markets have very high standards when it comes to the quality of the produce they import. Still, demand for pumpkins is really high, despite the challenges the coronavirus brings with it.
Pumpkin cultivation in Egypt has been growing, one exporter has increased their acreage for it by more than 60 hectares over the last few seasons, says Oriental Trade export manager Wael Soliman: “There are different varieties when it comes to pumpkins growing. They are categorized according to shape, color, ridges, spots and stripes. Our cultivation of pumpkins was extended by more than 60 hectares, especially between Luxor and Aswan in recent years. Our pumpkins are grown from the lowlands up to altitudes of about 2,000 meters above sea level. They are warm-season crops adapted to mean temperatures of 27-35 degrees Celsius. The importance and the quality of our Hokkaido pumpkins varieties is confirmed by production quantities per hectare, which this year reached 6 tons per hectare as well as the export results we’ve experienced.”
Due to the pandemic Soliman expected demand to be lower this year, but now that the season is underway they’ve noticed the opposite is true. “The flower produces about two to three fruits and it takes about 90 days for them to mature. The pumpkin is hard shelled and is fleshy from inside. In short, we can say that our Hokkaido pumpkin has a high technique process of growing and this is coming after intensive experiments and trials. We expect to reach about ten containers after sorting. This season our expectation was that the pumpkin season would be challenging, with the pandemic in mind. However, we’re seeing the opposite reaction right now, with a high demand and an extraordinarily strong start to the season. Pumpkins have a vast market internationally, however, you have to meet specific international set standards of quality to sell to that market.”
Oriental Trade cultivated its pumpkins in an organic manner, using specific methods to counter pests and diseases. “We maintain our pumpkin from common diseases including bacterial which turns the leaves into brown-colored waste. Instead of using destructive pesticides, we only maintain organic preventative measures including spraying water in the mornings, so that the crop will be dry by the time evening comes, as this is part of the day is when the humidity supports such bacteria. Control of pests requires the use of organic methods. We selected upper-Egypt soil for its growth as it has to grow in medium heavy and rich in nutrients, which upper-Egypt is characterized with, it also needs enough water along with proper heat and sun.”
Currently the European market is most important for the company, but Soliman states they’re aiming to enter the Asian markets as well: “The largest part of our pumpkins is sent to Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The new challenges we are facing are in regards to our vision to penetrate the Asian market as well as the Japanese market specifically with our characteristic’s fruits. We’re lucky that, after intensive Research and Development, every vine of the flower produces high quality fruits and the right calibers. The demand and uses for pumpkins are increasing day by day, because of its nutritional value and health benefits, thus increasing the interest of people that are into a healthy lifestyle.” he concludes.