Expanding Egypt’s horticultural exports through improved food safety compliance

Credits: FAO/Stephanie Leontiev

Cairo, Egypt – Following a three-year project to help position Egyptian horticultural products on the global stage through improved compliance with international food safety standards, the EBRD and FAO met with project stakeholders across the value chain in Cairo to present achievements, reflect on lessons learned and plan next steps.

Putting food safety on Egypt’s export portfolio

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the EBRD) and FAO have been working closely with Egyptian authorities and the private sector to improve Egypt’s access to high-value export markets and to scale up investment, including in its horticulture sector. The project, which focuses on strengthening compliance with food safety standards to enable access to these markets, is supported by the European Union through the Trade and Competitiveness Programme.

The export of fresh fruits and vegetables is the most rapidly growing segment of the agribusiness sector in Egypt. Citrus fruits are the most exported product from Egypt generating an export value of more than USD 920 million in the concluded 2022 – 2023 agricultural season. It is a sector with potential to grow even further, if the right level of support and scaling up investment is provided to help companies meet the increasingly stringent food safety standards required in Egypt’s main international markets.

At the closing workshop, the EBRD and FAO gathered project participants and partners to present achievements, key findings, and recommendations to consider the progress made and discuss how to sustain future efforts. “To remain competitive, the private sector needs to constantly adjust to changes in market conditions,” said Mohamed Mansour, Principal Banker, Agribusiness, the EBRD. “Learning how to identify these changes and adapt allows it to remain relevant. This requires engagement with actors along the value chain to encourage alignment and coordination for compliance requirements at every level of the production process.”

Participants to the workshop included government representatives from the National Food Safety Authority (NFSA), the Central Lab of Residue Analysis of Pesticides and Heavy Metals in Food (QCAP), the Central Administration for Plant Quarantine, as well as exporters and private associations such as the Agricultural Export Council (AEC) and the Horticultural Export Improvement Association, and agronomic and pest and disease control practitioners.

From needs assessment to capacity building

The project started with a needs assessment to evaluate the main factors that affect compliance with international food safety standards in Egypt’s main export-oriented fruit and vegetable value chains. This included assessing adoption levels of different production and post-harvest practices to minimize the pesticide residue levels in horticulture products. It also helped identify regulatory and inspection gaps which if addressed, would help producers better adhere to quality and safety standards. A study to identify crops with high export potential that are sensitive to border rejection resulting from food safety compliance issues was also conducted.

The needs assessment informed the development of a capacity-building programme to support both the private sector and Egyptian regulatory bodies to streamline food safety checks across the various supply chains and create better conditions for compliance. Topics covered in the programme included food safety standards, pest and disease control, pesticide management, and incoming EU Green Deal regulatory changes, supplemented by detailed guidelines for five target crops – citrus, grapes, medicinal and aromatic plants, strawberries, and tomatoes – which outline specific food safety standards required for each by key export markets.

“FAO strives to support actors in the Egyptian agrifood sector to meet international food safety standards,” said Nasredin Hag Elamin, FAO Representative in Egypt. “Capacity development and knowledge sharing on best practices are central to supporting decision-makers and practitioners meet market requirements and position Egyptian agricultural products on the global stage.”

Achievements, lessons learned and next steps

The closing workshop included the presentation of a new market study focused on expanding Egyptian Horticultural Exports to Europe. Findings include how twelve horticultural products accounted for about 80 percent of the total value of agricultural exports in Egypt in 2021 and that European countries, especially those with distribution centers such as the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, and those with high demand like the United Kingdom, are in the top ten main destinations for Egyptian horticultural products. Also important are those with advanced logistics hubs such as France. The study underlines the importance of adapting to the regulatory changes happening in the EU, particularly those included in the EU Green Deal affecting the use of presently prohibited insecticides such as chlorpyrifos, to sustain market access for Egyptian exporters and encourage sustainable practices.

“We believe it is a priority to share the most recent knowledge and information with all workers across the supply chain to ensure transparency and support traceability efforts at every stage from farm to fork and to ensure food safety for Egyptian produce,” said Mr. Abdel Hamid Demerdash, Chairman of AEC.

The work implemented by FAO and EBRD in the context of this project with support from the EU, has brought attention to the importance of addressing food safety issues as key enablers of Egyptian horticulture exports. This has in turn contributed to a better understanding of the challenges that the sector is facing to remain competitive and has stimulated renewed private and public concerted efforts to address these challenges.


Mohamed Moussa

Tel: (+2) 02 333 1 6000 (Ext. 2542)
Mob: (+2) 0100 1400 724


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