FAO Investment Centre

Boosting Egypt’s fruit and vegetable exports by improving food safety and quality

EBRD and FAO organised training courses with farmers and exporters on pesticides management and microbiological contamination

The Egyptian horticulture sector generated USD 2.2 billion in export earnings for 2020, showing continued strength despite supply chain disruptions and uncertainties in global trade due to COVID-19. Egypt's fruit and vegetable sector is one of the country's fastest growing agribusiness sectors. For some products like oranges, for example, Egypt is one of the biggest exporters in the world.

With increased trade comes increased responsibility. As export volumes continue to grow and consumers become more demanding in terms of food safety and quality requirements, Egyptian growers and exporters are facing rising challenges to meet specific standards of international markets.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through the Trade and Competitiveness Programme funded by the European Union (EU), are supporting Egyptian authorities and the private sector to strengthen compliance and reduce the rate of rejections in export markets. This will open up new windows to other potential destinations.

Exporters, suppliers and farmers of five targeted value chains (strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, citrus, and medicinal and aromatic plants) took part in a training series to strengthen their capacities to handle pest and disease control and pesticide residue management.

"There are key benefits from helping the private sector strengthen food safety practices across the supply chain. It will help alleviate the risks and costs around companies' exports and assist in building a strong, sustainable and inclusive agribusiness sector. At the same time, these practices can boost the profitability and sustainability of small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] and corporate businesses along the value chain. Both will be able to improve their competitiveness and extend their access to markets, enabling them to invest in the growth of their business." says Mohamed Mansour, Principal Banker, Agribusiness, EBRD.

Sharing requirements through guidelines and field tools

Appropriate use of pesticides and other chemicals during production is in the best interest of farmers as non-conformity often results in rejection of exported goods. Outlining specific food safety and other sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements in key export markets is crucial to increase efficiency at the field level, and consequently, the performance of actors along the value chains. Strengthened food safety standards can also contribute to building Egypt's reputation as a reliable trade partner of quality fruit and vegetable products globally.

The training introduced a set of guidelines as a field tool to show how to control pests and diseases and manage pesticide application in their operations. Additionally, the training presented best practices on preventative principles for controlling microbiological contamination, as well as standards for use and management of microbiological control agents.
Key players in Egypt involved in these efforts include government agencies such as the National Food Safety Authority (NFSA) and the Central Administration for Plant Quarantine (CAPQ), as well as the private sector through the Agricultural Export Council (AEC).

"We are ready to work with all stakeholders to align Egypt's food safety standards with changing international markets and to support efficiency across the export-oriented value chains. We see that it is vital for all workers across the supply chains to feel ownership and responsibility for their products and to communicate best practices and requirements at each step of production and processing, specifically exporters to their farmers at field level. We also see opportunity to strengthen ties with key markets of interest, such as the EU, through the use of high-speed vessels and other innovations to reduce transportation times and open opportunities for new products to reach the EU," says Mr. Abdel Hamid Demerdash, Chairman of AEC.

Reaching export potential

The horticulture sector has untapped export potential and could continue to grow if Egypt is able to address important issues at stake, such as the use of certain agrochemicals that will soon be banned by key importing markets as an effort towards improving product food safety and quality and greening supply chains globally. Recent yearly exports of oranges from Egypt amounted to about US$ 717 million, less than half of its US$ 1.7 billion export market potential. Strategic support to Egypt's oranges value chain actors can help to substantially increase the value of exports of this key product. There is also a major potential to add value to key fruits and vegetables products, which are highly demanded in international markets.

"FAO is ready to support the growth and competiveness of SMEs and micro enterprises through technical support and trainings that strengthen their capacities to adopt best practices and comply with food safety and international standards," says Nasredin Hag Elamin, FAO Representative in Egypt.

Knowledge-sharing through technical and practical training is critical for Egypt's public and private stakeholders to remain current and aligned with changing international market standards. It will also help our stakeholders to seize new opportunities for enhanced profits from expanding the network of potential importers.

Photo credit Photo 1 ©FAO/Stephanie Leontiev, Photo 2 ©EBRD