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Amgad Nessem, export manager of El Teriak Farms

"Next season, we will not have the problem of small-sized citrus"

It is widely known that the Egyptian citrus season has been characterized by an abundance of small sizes to the detriment of large sizes, leading to major market shifts and price fluctuations. This is part of a bigger picture, that of the climatic disruptions that have impacted the citrus industry worldwide. According to Amgad Nessem, export manager at Elteriak Farms, Egyptian growers have fared better this season than other countries such as Spain and South Africa and will adapt very quickly to the new climate realities.

Nessem said: "The large sizes represented 20 or 25% at best of Egyptian citrus production, and created a great challenge, in turn, a source of other commercial and financial challenges. Competition between Egyptian growers in markets that accept small sizes, such as India, Malaysia, or certain European markets, was very tough and drove prices down considerably. Prices fell by an average of 25% compared with the previous season. But on the other hand, the losses were offset by other factors".

The exporter continues, "Towards the end of the season, in May, Egyptian production was without competition on the market, which pushed prices up. Oranges, for example, were exported at 800-900 USD per tonne, double the mid-season price. The devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar also helped to keep prices intact in local currency, despite its disadvantage in terms of production costs. And last but not least, fruits of large sizes were in great demand and sold at expensive prices."

In terms of markets, the abundance of small sizes has impacted demand from traditional export destinations that used to absorb large quantities of Egyptian citrus, such as Russia, China, and Western Europe. But the Egyptian campaign benefited from the difficulties experienced by other origins.

Nessem explains, "While in the case of Egypt, climatic disruptions were reflected in the abundance of small sizes, other origins were much more affected. This is the case of Spain, our main competitor, which was virtually out of the picture this season due to drought. South Africa also experienced major difficulties due to the weather. In this new configuration, the Egyptian campaign was saved by very strong demand from Spain itself, Eastern European countries such as Slovenia, Poland, and Croatia, and new demand from countries such as Canada and Argentina/"

According to the exporter, this new situation in the citrus industry holds great potential for Egypt, despite the challenges encountered this season. He asserts, "We will learn the right lessons from last season. Even if adverse weather conditions become a constant, it is entirely possible to avoid the problem of small sizes by adapting our farming operations. Last season, growers, while not expecting extreme temperatures, waited too long to decide on the density of fruit on the trees. They waited until June, and by then it was too late. By reducing the density of fruit per tree as early as April, we'll have a lot more large-sized fruit even in extreme temperatures. I can safely predict that this will not be a problem next year".

Nessem concludes, "It is true that in Egypt, as in the rest of the world, climatic conditions are becoming very harsh. However, citrus in Egypt is grown largely in the desert and is already adapted to hot temperatures, bearing in mind that citrus is not very sensitive during flowering. These desert areas also have huge water reserves. If climatic disruptions become the new reality for the citrus industry, it's actually an opportunity for Egyptian citrus, provided we can adapt our farming operations and manage to stabilize prices."

For more information:
Amgad Nessem
Elteriak Farms
Tel: +201 207 976 920
Email: [email protected]