Cairo looks East for new markets

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Egypt’s Exports Council of Chemicals and Fertilizers (ECCF) prepared a plan of action to increase its exports for the current year by 15%, marking a LE34 billion in value compared to 2014.

According to the ECCF chairman Dr. Waleed Helal, the new strategy is looking East (China, Russia and India), stressing the need to increase the size of trade exchange, while in the meantime activate inter-Arab commercial ties with a special focus on bilateral relations with Gulf states, in addition to the country’s traditional economic ties with Europe.

Moreover, the ECCF organised two major promotional visits to Kenya, Uganda and Sudan next April as well as France and Italy in June. The council is also planning to take part in nine group exhibitions and 44 individual fairs in order to boost trade exchanges with targeted markets.

According to a report published by ECCF, countries like France, Spain, Belgium, Britain, Greece, Germany and Romania receive 44 percent of the total local chemical exports while Arab states get 27 percent. Meanwhile, countries like India, China, Australia and the United States get 29% of the exports.

Due to energy shortages, fertilizer firms had to operate at half capacity, marking a decrease in their product exports typically amounting to LE4.7 billion, Helal said. Power shortages were one of the major issues that led to a 40% decrease of fertilizer production. The increase of the dollar exchange rate against the Egyptian pound barred the sector’s ability to pour in more investments. These challenges came at a time when strikes at Egyptian ports become a daily routine. However, to pursue the council’s plan, the Holding Company for Natural Gas (HCNG) promised to increase its supplies by 10 percent. Thus, fertilizer exports are expected to reach LE6.4 billion.

Despite the fact that the sector witnessed varying degrees of performance, it was marked as the leading exporting council for the year 2014, ECCF chairman said. He pointed out that the council managed to expand its base to include 70 new markets in order to avoid the eurozone financial crisis and the loss of markets in unstable countries like Syria and Libya.

Helal pointed to the council’s successful attempts at decreasing chemical imports by 20.7 percent, which used to cost more than $8 billion a year.

The ECCF’s efforts were rewarded and the council was named at the top of the exporters list for the year 2014.