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Said El Din Abdel Razek
National Institute of
Oceanography and Fisheries
andAhmed El-Dimiri
General Authority for Fish
Resources Development


Egypt is currently not self sufficient in terms of food production. Many foods including fish and fishery products have to be imported. In 1989 total fish production was estimated at 323 000 t and about 100 000 t were imported. Much effort has been made to develop Egyptian fisheries in order to increase production and narrow the gap between supply and demand. Fish markets vary in size, selling conditions and other characteristics. Market efficiency is an essential requirement to reducing costs to the customer. Fish marketing and distribution are discussed here.


L'Egypte doit faire face à un problème d'insuffissance alimentaire. Beaucoup de denrées alimentaires, dont des produits de la pêche, doivent être importées. En ce qui concerne ces dernières, elle a dû, en 1989, importer environ 100 000 t pour compléter une production totale de 323 000 t. Aucun effort n'a été fait pour pallier à cette situation et accroître la production. Les marchés de poisson en Egypte sont différents en ce qui concerne l'importance, les conditions et les caractéristiques de la demande. L'efficacité des marchés est un facteur important permettant la réduction des coûts, et donc du prix au consommateur. Le document passe en revue les systèmes de distribution et de commercialisation.


There are few cold storage and ice making plants in Egypt (see Table 1).

The most common means of transporting fish from landing sites to retail markets are lorries and jeeps, most of which are not provided with refrigeration equipment. The inadequate transportation system is not a serious problem because most of the fish landed are immediately disposed of as fresh fish. Those of less freshness are processed into salted and smoked fish.


The markets vary in size, selling conditions, number of market days and number of days on which fish is available. In larger markets, sellers occupy tiled permanent stalls with running water and operate 7 days a week. Many of the markets have fish available daily, with additional sellers present during market days. The physical selling conditions are generally unsanitary in large and smaller markets. Many sellers operate outside the market structure.

The market for fish farm production in Egypt is characterized by decentralization where farm products move from farms into the hands of processors and wholesalers without utilizing the services of the older, established terminal facilities which exist in the centralized market.

Buying agents of processors, wholesalers and retail firms such as the Egyptian Company for Fish Marketing contact fish farmers and fishermen and take over the products in the production area. On the other hand, the market for marine fish products is characterized by centralization where the products are collected in centralized locations for operations of exchange, standardization, and market information functions by a physical concentration of buyers and sellers and other market agencies. These types of market exists in Alexandria, Cairo and other cities located on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. In those decentralized marketing systems buyers and sellers move into the production area to operate at widely separated locations. Instead of products coming to the processor-wholesaler-retailer, buyers go to the producers. Thus, decentralization constitutes a rearrangement of the marketing functions among firms - not an elimination of these functions - and a displacement of the wholesale terminal market by direct sales from shipping-point markets to wholesalers, retailers and processors. Improving the fish marketing infrastructures in Egypt is vital because it is beyond the ability of the small-scale farmer to establish the necessary facilities (wholesale, retail, transportation, storage, ice plant, processing and packing), and therefore, government support is essential.

In spite of the less developed method of fish marketing where the sole retailer with a bamboo cage still offers his fish product for sale in the Egyptian streets, the tremendous efforts of the Egyptian Fish Marketing Company to improve the facilities and the marketing infrastructure in order to satisfy the needs of the Egyptian consumer are very evident.

About 30 000 t capacity of cold store space is rented by the company to keep and process fish products (see Table 1) every year. There is still much more to be done in the area of fish handling. It was estimated that more than 10% of the total fish production is lost in Egypt. In some fishing zones the loss was 50%, 40%, 30% of the catch. In Lake Bardaweel the loss was 500 t, about 25% of the total catch in 1989. About LE 150 million fish production is lost through rough handling.


Egypt is well-endowed with fishery resources comprising the river Nile and its tributaries, artificial Lake Nasser (freshwater), Lakes Manzala, Burulus, Idku, Maryut (brackishwater), Lake Bardaweel (saltwater), the Mediterranean and Red Sea. The annual fish production in Egypt averages 300 000 t.

3.1 Fish Handling

Transport of fish from the fishing grounds to the landing centres takes 3–5 hours or more.

Fish spoils very rapidly due to the high temperatures, but ice plants are frequently lacking. Traditional curing methods still provide the major method of preserving the fish which cannot be sold fresh.

When ice is used it is finely crushed. The ice requirement depends on the length of the journey, the air temperature and other transport factors.

Chilling may be carried out in the hold into which the fish are emptied directly or they may be packed in rows or in boxes before being stowed.

Thermal losses are reduced by using heat-insulating covers. The amount used varies from 50% of the weight of the fish to 100%. Fish should be transferred from the quay as quickly as possible and in such a way as not to impair their technological value or cleanliness.

3.2 Production of Fish Fillets

In Aswan the Tilapia catch from Lake Nasser was used for the production of fish fillets.

Fish fillets, which consist of flesh cut away from the backbone of the skinned and gutted fish, are a fully edible product of the highest quality being entirely or almost free of bones.

Only live or absolutely fresh fish may be used for fillet production. Fillets possess the following great advantages over other fish products:

The production of fillets in Aswan is carried out both mechanically and by hand as follows:

Fish offal is used for the production of fish meal and fish oil.

Table 1

Cold storage capacity rented by the Egyptian Company for Fish Marketing

Name and location of cold storageCold storage capacity
Ghamra, Cairo     200
Ameria and Wardian, Alexandria  6 750
Arab World and Egyptian Cooling, Port Said  4 125
Ismailia  2 500
Damanhour, Behira       50
Damietta       50
Kafr El-Sheikh       50
Tanta - Nasser Bank, Gharbia  3 425
El-Mansoura, Daqahlia       90
Zazazig, Sharqia       25
Shebin El-Kom, Monofia       50
Ramada, Toukh, Banha, Qalubia   7 100
Pyramids, Giza   4 250
El-Faium       70
Bani Suif        90
Elmenia        25
Assiut       45
Souhag       20
Qena  1 040
Total29 950

3.3 Salting (Fermentation)

There are two kinds of salted product:

Two methods of salting are practised:

  1. Barrel salting

    Fish gills are filled with salt and the body covered with salt. The fish are kept under the sun for about 5 hours or left indoors with air circulation for 24 hours. Salt in gills has to be changed and fish put into barrels, the bottom of which is covered with salt, then covered with another layer of salt and so on. The product is ready after 4–6 days.

  2. Burying

    Fish gills are filled with salt and fish body covered with salt, the fish wrapped in sacking. The fish with sacking is buried in the sand and left for 15–30 days.

3.4 Exported Fresh

Fish from Lake Bardaweel is chilled by ice for export by air to Europe.

3.5 Smoked Fish

Smoked fish is prepared from imported herrings.

3.6 Canning

Canned products are also prepared from imported fish (i.e., Scomber scombrus).


The main causes of fish losses in Egypt:

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