Famous for their exoticness and health benefits, pomegranates have been gaining global popularity as a superfruit, especially in the Western market and some Asian markets, such as China and South Korea. Marking a market size of USD 236.8 million in 2020, the global market for pomegranate is expected to reach USD 343.6 million in 2027.
In Egypt, pomegranate was the fifth most exported agricultural product with an export volume of 83,000 metric tons in 2020. While the Wonderful variety has traditionally been a popular variety in the market, the Early 116 may win over some market share this season as the production volume for the Wonderful is expected to drop due to unfavorable weather conditions. One of the major Early 116 suppliers in Egypt, Cairo Farms, informed that some pomegranate farms that grow the Wonderful variety are confronting a rough estimate of 40-50% reduction in the number of fruit per tree for the upcoming harvest season compared to the regular seasons. Egypt’s short winter that normally lasts around a month before spring starts in February/March sets a good growing condition for pomegranates. Last winter, however, Egypt experienced inconsistent weather conditions with temperatures swerving between highs and lows, therefore, causing damage to the Wonderful’s flowering stage.
Another measure hinting at the Wonderful’s supply decline is a potential reduced number of planted pomegranate trees for this season. With major producing regions located in Asyout, Alexandria, Al Fayoum, and Cairo, most Egyptian farmers grow the Wonderful variety as it is the most market-dominating variety in the global pomegranate market. Mr. Akram El-Nady, the CEO at Cairo Farms, has witnessed some pomegranate growers replacing their trees with orange or olive trees, which generally yield higher profit and are easier to sell, as they suffered from low sales last year due to delayed harvest and pandemic challenges. Some older pomegranate trees are maintained as they can still provide high yields.
However, the Early 116 has been unaffected by the weather challenge. True to its name, the Early 116 is a relatively new variety known as the new and improved Wonderful that is harvested two months earlier; the harvest season for Early 116 starts late July and lasts until mid-September. In terms of taste, Wonderful tends to be a sweeter variety. Yet, Cairo Farms has been able to enhance the sweetness for Early 116’s to 16-18 Brix level with adequate soil fertilization, proving the Early 116’s potential to take over the reign of the Wonderful in coming years.
With the Egyptian government’s strict export regulations on the fruit industry, the Egyptian pomegranate industry supplies high-quality pomegranates at a low cost to the global pomegranate market compared to its major competitors such as Turkey, India, and Iran. As one of the Early 116 producers with an export license in Egypt, Cairo Farms expects to see an increased production volume of 400 metric tons, of which 200 - 300 metric tons is of exportable quality. Mr. El-Nady is confident that the Early 116 will be able to fill up some of the supply gaps of the Wonderful with its early-season advantage.
Egypt’s main target market for pomegranate continues to be Europe with increasing demand in Spain and Greece. Egyptian pomegranates have two major market advantages: high quality and competitive prices. Increasing demand for organic and healthier products as well as the proximity to European markets are all in favor of Egypt’s pomegranate export. Italy’s growing demand for red fruit may also become a great market opportunity for Egypt. While Turkey is the main competitor to the European market with its season starting in late October, Egypt is still expected to be the first ones to bring supply into the market with the Early 116 harvest beginning in July.
Export prices are expected to see upward pressure due to several factors, such as increased shipping costs due to container shortages, inflation due to currency fluctuations, and increased labor and raw materials costs. Lack of supply due to Wonderful’s shortage may add more price pressure. To offer competitive prices, Mr. El-Nady recommends using plastic boxes, rather than the industry norm packaging of 5kg carton boxes, for shipping as exporters may be able to save some costs.