Egypt bets on oranges to boost exports to Japan

Japan allowed the Egyptian government to export citrus fruits after long negotiations between the two sides, in a step officials and experts believe will contribute to increasing Egyptian exports, pumping foreign currency into the country, creating job opportunities and increasing farmers’ income.

al-monitor Men sell oranges from their donkey carts in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 26, 2012. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
Ahmed Gomaa

Ahmed Gomaa

@AhmedGomaa252

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Economy and trade

Nov 11, 2020

CAIRO — The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture announced Nov. 2 that Japan has agreed to import citrus fruits, including oranges. The announcement comes after lengthy negotiations between the two sides that extended over several years.

Egyptian Minister of Agriculture Al-Sayed Al-Qusayr said in a press statement on the same day that the Central Administration of Plant Quarantine affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture intensified in 2019 its negotiations with the Japanese side, adding that an action plan has been agreed upon for the export process to start once the necessary legislative and executive measures in Japan are completed. The negotiations ended with the Japanese side’s approval to open the Japanese market to a variety of citrus fruits from Egypt.

According to a report issued Feb. 14 by Aswaq Financial Co., an Egyptian stock market company providing financial information to the Egyptian market, Egypt remained at the top of the list of orange-exporting countries in 2019 for the second year in a row, with 38% of the world's total exports. Egypt exports 50% of its domestic production, which amounted to 3.42 million tons in 2019, according to the report.

Ahmed el-Attar, head of the Central Administration of Plant Quarantine, told Al-Monitor, “After nearly 11 years of negotiations, this is the first time that Japan agrees to import citrus fruits from Egypt. We stepped up negotiations last year after an Egyptian delegation — which I headed — arranged for a technical visit to Japan. We discussed [during the visit] the export requirements, and the course of negotiations was accelerated and ended with their [Japanese] agreement to receive citrus fruits from Egypt.”

He said, “Japan’s approval on the import of citrus fruits from Egypt is a testament to the world’s confidence in the quality of Egyptian products and in the ability of Egypt’s Central Administration of Plant Quarantine to implement the technical requirements for export to Japan — which is one of the most difficult markets in the world in terms of agricultural quarantine as it imposes very difficult conditions [which he did not specify]. Japan’s export approval from a technical point of view is tantamount to recognition of the international quality [of Egyptian products] as it testifies to the professionalism of the Egyptian regulatory system and products.”

Attar pointed out that “Japan’s approval to receive citrus fruits from Egypt is not limited to oranges alone but includes tangerines and lemons, among other varieties. A technical leaflet regarding the requirements for exporting these citrus fruits is to be distributed within days, and export requests from exporters are to follow.”

Egyptian Ambassador to Tokyo Ayman Kamel said in a statement posted Nov. 2 on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Facebook page, “The embassy has — over the past two years — raised the issue of Egyptian agricultural products entering Japan during its contacts with Japanese officials. It also arranged for a meeting among a committee of technicians and experts from both sides at the headquarters of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, with the participation of an Egyptian delegation headed by Dr. Ahmed el-Attar, head of Egypt’s Central Administration of Plant Quarantine. In addition, it arranged for an expert from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture to be dispatched to Egypt in December in order to examine Egyptian citrus products and inspect production and cooling methods.”

Kamel noted in the statement that the Egyptian Embassy in Tokyo was keen to expedite the approval of exports before the start of the citrus season in Egypt in December, which would allow Egyptian agricultural products to be exported before the end of the year.

Abdel Hamid al-Demerdash, chairman of the Agriculture Export Council, told Al-Monitor, “The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and the Agriculture Export Council have been trying for years to have Japan open the door to the export of citrus fruits, but their conditions [which he did not mention] were quite harsh. Understandings have been concluded with them to implement such requirements that rely on international and strict standards for examining products and foods; the inspection process may take several years before the import decision enters into effect.”

He pointed out that “during the past three years, Japanese officials have visited Egypt to inspect farms and water stations. Exactly one year ago, the matter started to take a serious turn with the decision to open Japanese markets to Egyptian citrus fruits and they recently agreed to import [citrus fruits from Egypt].”

The decision, according to Demerdash, paves the way “to increase the exported quantities of Egyptian citrus fruits and open new markets for export in a way that contributes to increasing Egyptian exports, employing workers and increasing farmers’ income.”

He added, “We have not yet decided on the quantities of citrus fruits that will be exported to Japan, especially oranges.”

The value of Egypt’s citrus fruits' exports to foreign markets amounted to more than $238 million between January and August, according to data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, which was published by the Youm7 website Nov. 4.

Mahmoud Zayed, member of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee, said in statements to Sada el Balad website Nov. 4 that exporting citrus fruits to Japan contributes to pumping foreign currency into the country, creating new job opportunities, raising the volume of exports and opening new markets to Egyptian products.

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