Egyptian strawberries exports: Striving to return to international markets

On 18 January, Egypt was struck by a Saudi ban on the import of Egyptian strawberries. The reason was that inspections had showed that some shipments had contained pesticide residues that were higher than acceptable, making them unsafe for human consumption.

The General Authority for Import and Export Control sent an official note to all listed exporters of agricultural crops, informing them of the Saudi ban. The ban could have a negative impact on exports of strawberries this year, leading to losses for exporters, Helmi Eissa, a member of the Agricultural Export Council (AEC), told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The strawberry season starts in November and lasts until April. This means that the season has been hit hard; exporters will be obliged to redirect their produce and sell it at lower prices. Last year, Egyptian exports of strawberries to Saudi Arabia were estimated at 39,000 tons, valued at some $90 million.

Sources say the Egyptian government is in constant contact with Saudi officials and the ban is expected to be lifted soon. An official investigation is underway to discover which company did not abide by the regulations, leading to its removal from the list of exporters kept by the AEC. Two companies were removed in the past by the AEC.

Excessive pesticide residues on Egyptian crops have been a problem that has hindered exports of agricultural goods over the past year, to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. This is also not the first time that Saudi Arabia has banned Egyptian crops. It imposed a ban on Egyptian strawberries in July 2017 and on peppers in January 2017.

However, the Saudi ban seems to also have had a positive effect, since it has led to a new export-control system. “All the countries that import our products are satisfied with the new system and accept the Egyptian laboratory certificates. It may take some time, but Saudi Arabia will eventually accept the system as well,” Eissa added.

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