The political and economic situation in Russia and Ukraine has made it a tough season for Egypt's citrus exporters. With two of their main markets in positions that make it hard for consumers to buy fruit, Egyptian orange traders have had to curtail their exports.

“Our two main markets in Eastern Europe have been affected,” said Capt. Esbetah of Misr Pan Transport. “Normally, we send between 20,000 and 25,000 tons of oranges to Russia, but this season, we'll be lucky if we send 15,000 tons.” The falling value of the Russian ruble has caused most of the problems for Egypt's exporters. While Russian buyers are still looking for fruit to import, the falling value of the local currency is making it harder for Russian consumers to buy that fruit. Political instability in Ukraine is also making it hard for Egyptian oranges to make their way there, and as the second biggest export destination for Egyptian citrus, Esbetah finds that troubling.
(Mr.Sherif Mazar of El Gebaly and Capt.Esbetah)
“Russia usually imports about 230,000 tons of oranges from Egypt, and Ukraine normally imports about 120,000 tons,” said Esbetah. “In normal years, we send a vessel with 2,000 pallets to those countries about eight times a season, but this year, we don't know exactly how much we're going to send because we don't yet know if we can cover our costs. So you can imagine what kind of drop we're going to see.”

Further complicating matters is the accelerated nature of this year's crop. While oranges are usually not available until December, cool weather has been good for the colouring of fruit, so Esbetah anticipates they'll have fruit earlier this year. Sizing and quality of fruit has improved since last season, which saw smaller fruit and less of it. With two of the biggest markets diminished, Egypt's citrus exporters will have to find new markets for their fruit.

“We'll have to increase how much fruit we sell domestically,” said Esbetah. “We usually have 40 percent of our oranges on the domestic market, but more will have to go there this year. We'll also target Asian markets, especially China and South Korea. We'll see where South African fruit goes, because their season is before ours, and in turn, find those markets. If we can reach those Asian markets, I think this season can be an improvement.”

For more information:
Captain. Mohammed Deeb Esbetah
Misrpan transport co.
Gesr El-Suez St.
El-Shorta Officers Buildings
Building No.1, 5th Floor
Tel: +202 263 59 623
Fax: +202 263 71 400
Mob: +202 100 210 8881
Author: Yzza Ibrahim / Carlos Nunez