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close this bookCERES No. 096 - November - December 1983 (FAO Ceres, 1983, 50 p.)
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View the documentEgypt assesses strawberry's potential as export crop
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Egypt assesses strawberry's potential as export crop

Generally regarded as a luxury food, strawberries are often considered an appropriate crop for development funding, which traditionalists tend to see in terms of staple foods. But during the past two or three years, a small group of Egyptian farmers at Ismailiya, in the Suez Canal, have been able to demonstrate that a well planned strawberry production programme can provide other benefits than titillation of the palates of the rich.

For one thing, when produced in large quantities, strawberries respond to Egyptian consumer demand for fruit rich in Vitamin C, particularly March, April, and May when the orange crop ends and summer fruits are not available, thus reducing dependence on imported apples and bananas. The attractive financial returns to growers encourages them to remain on the land, counteracting one serious drain of able-bodied then migrating to the cities and broad. In addition, new jobs are being created in the plants that freeze and process the fruit. Finally, strawberry breeding provides a training found for local agricultural expertise that could be adapted and transferred other high-value crops that are suited to Egyptian soils such as tomatoes, asparagus, and artichokes. The catalyst for this venture in improved strawberry production was $85 000 FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project begun in 1981. Project funds were used to provide equipment for a tissue culture laboratory and strawberry Centre established at the University of Al Shams. At Ismailiya, chosen because of its light soil and favorable climate, 97 farmers who had no experience with this crop participated of the initial planting, a total of 28 hectares. A team of plant pathologists, entomologists, soil scientists, marketing experts, and extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture and the University visited the site two or three times each week to monitor the crop. Training courses were conducted for specialists, field engineers, and farmers. The constant contact between staff and the novice growers was credited with developing good working relationships and strong local support.

Results from the first season were highly encouraging. Average yields were 27.5 tons per hectare. With production costs estimated at approximately 7 500 Egyptian pounds per hectare and gross receipts at 27 500 pounds per hectare, allowing an average net profit of 20 000 pounds per hectare, this return compares favorably with any other crop grown in Egypt.

By the second season, many other farmers in the area wanted to grow strawberries and the area planted was increased to 600 hectares. This was increased to 1 000 hectares for 1983, and plantings of 1 800 hectares are projected for next year.

During the current crop year, emphasis has shifted to improving technological aspects of strawberry production. Packaging and shipping techniques are receiving particular attention. As part of this effort, some Ismailiya farmers have been sent to California to observe practices there.

Bolstered by these initial successes, Egypt is now gearing strawberry production for export markets. A five-year plan now calls for plantings of 10 000 hectares and a total production of 300 000 tons. Of this, half would be reserved for local consumption, 50 000 tons for processing, 50 000 tons for freezing, and 50 000 for direct export. Strawberries are regarded as an attractive means of bringing in foreign currency, helping to offset outlays for imported wheat. Major export markets will include other Arab countries and Western Europe, especially England, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Switzerland.