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Season Start For Egyptian Grapes Featured

27 May 2014

Interview with Essam Lotfy, Chairman of Alard Altayeba fresh produce exporter from Cairo, Egypt

- The season for grapes from Egypt starts at the end of May. Could you please provide more details on the seasonality for different grape varieties?

Usually in Egypt we start harvesting and shipping grapes on the 21st or 22nd week of the year depending on weather condition. The season starts from Sugraone (superior) white seedless variety and red seedless variety called Flame. These two varieties will be available for export until the end of July. While in August and September we will be offering only red grapes - Crimson and Red Globe.

- Do you offer only four varieties? Are there other varieties of grapes grown in Egypt?

Yes, the number of varieties offered by the farmers in Egypt is very large, but we have selected Sugraone, Flame, Crimson and Red Globe, because all of them are very good for export. They form nicely looking large berries (usually our customers request that the grape berries have at least 17 mm in diameter), have good sugar content (15.5% - 16% brix are the minimum requirements depending on the variety) and, what is very important for shipment to the export markets – all of them have rather long shelf life. Sugraone, Crimson and Red Globe can be stored for about 60 days after harvesting and only Flame variety can be stored for not longer than 45 days. Combination of these best varieties with the best shelf life allows us to have such a log season of shipments.

- Do you have to apply any special technology to store your grapes for so long?

To preserve the quality of grapes it is very important to keep continuing cold chain for the whole process of harvesting, packing, storage and transportation. Grapes are pre-cooled right after harvesting, packed and placed to the refrigerated storage and to ref. containers for transportation. It is very important to maintain and control the quality at all stages. The company invests in bringing the latest know-how to insure the best quality & highest production of grapes, plastic cover is used in the field to achieve an earlier harvest time & a higher quality product.

- How do you pack grapes?

Usually we pack grapes in 4.5 kg carry bag boxes. By the requirement of particular customers sometimes we use plastic punnets – 500 g each, so the grapes are better protected during the transportation and can be supplied to the retail without repacking. In this case slightly larger 5 kg boxes are used. In the case of 4.5 kg boxes we place 180 boxes on each pallet and 40-feet refer container contains 20 pallets, which is 3600 boxes or nearly 16.2 MT of produce.

- Then you ship containers by sea?

Yes, if we talk about shipments to Russia the most convenient way is to ship our grapes to the port of Novorissiysk. In this case transportation takes only one week and might be even less in the beginning of the season as shipping lines improve transit time during grape season.

- And what about St. Petersburg?

To St. Petersburg it takes longer – about 24-25 days and may be less depending on shipping line, but the quality and shelf life of our grapes allow us to avoid any problems during transportation to this destination too. In addition to that we can also deliver from 500 to 1000 boxes of grapes per day by air.

- Do you ship grapes to any other destinations?

Yes of course, years ago we started our export shipments to Arab countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc) Greece, Italy and Kazakhstan. This year we are going to add Switzerland and Russia to the list of our export destinations.

- Could you please tell more about your company and its business in general?

It is our great pleasure to introduce our company to the Russian market. Our family – Lotfy family- has been growing fruit and vegetables since the 1970's in Monufya governorate located in the middle of fertile Delta of River Nile. We have always been known for superior grapes, potatoes and orange. When I became the Chairman of the company I took our business one step forward by establishing the export company "Alard Altayeba". We are planning to become one of the leading fresh produce exporters in Egypt by the next year. The Mission of our company has always been "supplying customers with top quality products at competitive prices". We aim to provide our customers with excellent customer services in order to build a long term business. To achieve high quality, good volume and stable supply of fruit and vegetables for our international clients we have formed farmers associations in different governorates of Egypt. We support these associations and make sure that each has well equipped and maintained packing house and help them gain Global Gap certificate, which is very important for shipments to Europe. Further we support these farmers technically and financially for every crop we export. It allows us to control the quality of the produce at each stage of growing, harvesting and packing. Now we offer our clients with the wide range of products including table grapes, peaches, strawberries, green beans, salad onions, snow peas, citrus, capsicum, garlic, artichokes, lettuce iceberg, melons and mangoes.

- Do you plan to ship all this range of produce to Russia?

Well, it is going to depend on the demand in the Russian market, but I see the great potential in the market of your country. Talking about grapes, I expect to sell around 50 to 100 containers of excellent quality grapes to Russia this season and hope that this amount will grow in the next years.