Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1347, (1 - 7 June 2017)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1347, (1 - 7 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Exports up

Last year’s floatation of the Egyptian pound has had an upside in increasing exports, reports Safeya Mounir

Exports increased by 14 per cent during the first four months of 2017
Exports increased by 14 per cent during the first four months of 2017

Egyptian exporters have benefited from last November’s decision to float the pound, recent figures show. Exports grew in the first four months of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, to $7.438 billion, compared to $6.545 billion last year, an increase of 14 per cent.

According to a report on exports in the first four months of this year published by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the relative importance of exports focuses on 15 goods that constitute 44.46 per cent of the value of all exports.

In the first quarter of 2017, these goods included gold, which constitutes 74 per cent of the value of exports. This was followed by dry or fresh citrus fruits at 6.4 per cent, and nitrogen fertiliser at 4.5 per cent.

Most sectors increased their exports between January and April 2017, following the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) decision to free the exchange rate in November 2016.

Chemical industry exports rose in the first four months of the year to reach $1.33 billion, or a 33 per cent increase. Agricultural crops exports rose by 33 per cent during the period, while food industry exports and furniture grew by a modest three per cent and four per cent, respectively.

Hani Berzi, chairman of the Food Export Council (FEC), said that food exports had greatly benefited from the decision to float the pound, and if it had not been for the turmoil in some Arab countries and a drop in the value of their local currencies, export profits would have been higher.

Egypt’s food exports target several markets in Africa, Europe and the US, but Arab countries are at the top of the list, with a share of 66 per cent of exports in this industry, Berzi said. He added that turmoil in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen had impacted many sectors that exported goods to these countries, including juice and cheese.

The highest jump in exports was in construction materials at 44 per cent, with exports in the first quarter reaching $1.8 billion compared to $1.2 billion in the same period last year. “Our exports greatly benefited from the decision to liberalise the exchange rate,” said Walid Gamaleddin, chairman of the Export Council for Construction Materials (ECCM).

“We are now more competitive in this field,” he said, adding that construction materials were exported to some 100 countries in Africa, Asia and some European markets.

Ready-made garments saw modest growth, though the liberalisation saved the sector from waning. Exports of ready-made garments grew by four per cent in the first four months of 2017 to reach $429 million, compared to $413 million during the same period in 2016, according to the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm quoting Mohamed Qassem, chairman of the Ready-Made Garments Exports Council (RGEC).

Qassem believes growth in this sector is a positive development since in recent years there was negative growth, such as a 15 per cent drop last year because of a difficulty in competing in foreign markets. He added that liberalising the exchange rate had positively impacted the sector.

Sherine Hosni, managing director of the RGEC, added that the costs shouldered by the industry had recently risen because of higher prices of transportation, oil products and applying VAT.

The US was the top importer of ready-made garments from Egypt between January and April, at $206.44 million, followed by the EU countries. Hosni said these markets would remain the top importers of ready-made garments from Egypt, at least in the short term, but some companies were trying to enter new markets in Africa and elsewhere.

Although Egypt’s furniture sector is known for its high quality, indicators reveal it did not benefit from the liberalisation of the exchange rate and only grew by four per cent in the first four months of this year. Ahmed Helmi, chairman of the Egyptian Furniture Export Council (EFEC), said subsidies given to the sector were modest and did not cover the cost of overseas exhibitions or competing with countries that have permanent showrooms in target markets.

Helmi added that the sector had not benefited from the liberalisation because there was not enough support for it at international exhibitions. The sector only receives LE2.6 million in subsidies and exports support, he said, criticising the absence of plans to increase support for sectors that have the opportunity to grow but need support from the state.

The EFEC has asked for the system of participating in overseas exhibitions to be overhauled and supervised by the Egypt Exhibition and Convention Authority. It suggested hiring a company specialising in organising exhibitions to take charge of technical and administrative aspects of Egyptian displays at international exhibitions.

The writer is a freelance writer.

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