SEKEM’s subsidiaries, ISIS and Lotus, aim to boost their exports to EGP 190m in 2017, up from EGP 60m in 2016, marking a growth of 200%.
Head of the companies Mohamed Anwar said that the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) decision to float the pound in November 2016 raised the ceiling limiting ISIS and Lotus exports, even though the companies only plan to increase their export size by 25%.
Anwar explained that the company will increase the size of exports to European and American markets, especially to Germany and the Netherlands, as well as maintaining presence in many Arab countries, Korea, and Japan.
ISIS accounts for 70% of the herbal tea market in Egypt and 90% of organic products, with a variety of 120 food products and 60 medicinal types.
SEKEM owns a main farmland in Sharqeya on 170 feddans. The company has recently reclaimed 3,000 feddans across three farms in Minya, Sinai, and Wahat. The company intends to reclaim three more by 2020. Moreover, SEKEM has contracts with 125 farms with an average area of 50 feddans each.
Anwar said that the group allocates 300 feddans in its Sinai farm to cultivate olives in preparation of producing olive oil for the first time this year.
He noted that SEKEM produces 1,000 tonnes of sesame per year, where it allocated 500 feddans for the crop in the summer season. He added that the company channels 90% of production to exports, while the remainder stock of sesame goes to the domestic market.
He pointed out that pesticide residues are the most prominent challenge in the export sector.
Anwar called on state to support any investor bidding on agricultural reclamation, whether by facilitating procedures or allocation of lands.
Furthermore, Anwar pointed out that the El-Reef El-Masry project is a good step in developing investment and agro-processing, as it provides healthy soil and accurate statistics.
He said that SEKEM group is capable of exporting at 1.5 times of its current rate if it finds a solution to rid soil of pesticide residues.
He added that other diseases are easy to treat, but pesticide residues are very difficult to get rid off.
He noted that the specification of Egyptian products gives them a competitive advantage, especially anise, coriander, chamomile, and sesame. He added that the high standards make the products more expensive and costly in production, which reduces profit margins.
Anwar advised producers of medicinal and aromatic plants to move to organic farming to boost their economic return.
He noted that the fragmentation of agricultural property and the high cost of organic farming are the biggest challenges that the sector faces.
He urged the government so subsidise exports through financing and also by spreading awareness and taking more interest in setting up exhibitions.