This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Egypt takes a broad view of food security, recognizing that with limited arable land and water resources, it will never be self-sufficient in grains, vegetable oil, and animal proteins – 40 percent of Egypt’s imports are food and agricultural products. For the United States, Egypt is primarily a bulk commodity (e.g., soybeans, cotton, and corn) destination. 

Egypt has a complex array of standards applied to food and agricultural products, including sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures. Inspection and testing arrangements are cumbersome, and the slew of organizations involved with SPS and technical barriers to trade (TBT) measures hinder coordination. Sanitary, phyto-sanitary, and technical barriers are often inconsistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments, restricting market access. Post is concerned with SPS and TBT measures involving animal proteins, grain, seed potatoes, and feather meal.   

Egypt’s implementation of non-science-based standards negatively impact trade. These standards tend to be reactionary, driven by political pressures or specific incidents associated with the products. At the same time, the Egypt-European Union (EU) Association Agreement, and other trade agreements have reduced or eliminated tariffs for food products from countries that have these arrangements. A number of U.S.-origin products now face notably higher tariffs and technical barriers than their EU competitors.

Unit: USD million
 2015201620172018 (Estimated)
Total Market Size3.2 MMT3.3 MMT3.3 MMT3.5 MMT
Total Local Production24,000 MT25,000 MT25,000 MT28,000 MT
Total Exports0.72500.2890.2610.260
Total Imports663.1629.3776.41,378.9
Imports from the U.S.161.799.7364.51,16 3.5
Source: Global Trade Atlas and USDA/FAS

Leading export growth in value in 2018 were U.S.-origin soybeans; reaching $1.16 billion, up 219 percent compared to the previous year.  With expanded crush capacity, Egypt is shifting to greater imports of soybeans for local processing into value-added products such as soybean meals and oils.  The local industry seeks to produce affordable, high-quality blended oil as well as high-protein soybean meal for the feed industry.  The food processing industry is increasing its use of soybeans and soy-based ingredients to enhance the nutritional quality of bread, as well as of two popular legume-based foods (i.e., lentil soup and falafel).

Egypt remains one of the world’s largest importers of wheat.  Imports of wheat between July 2018 and June 2019 are estimated at 12.5 million metric tons (MMT).  The General Authority for Supply Commodities is Egypt’s largest wheat purchaser.  It already has issued 24 tenders through February 2019, importing 6.13 MMT of milling wheat. 

Corn imports between July 2018 and June 2019 are estimated at reaching 9.3 million metric tons.  Egypt’s yellow corn production covers less than 20 percent of its feed demand needs.  Imports are supplementing the feed manufacturing industry’s expanded production.  There is a strong demand for U.S. corn, with some $320 million in imports in 2018.

General Agricultural Trade

Agricultural policy is generally consistent with the WTO.  There are however some serious non-tariff barriers (NTBs), including application of non-science-based standards and inspection requirements. The following are the main agricultural products currently affected by NTBs:
  • Poultry parts
  • Feather meal
  • Retail dairy-based powder products
  • Beef from cattle treated with synthetic animal growth promotants or hormones
  • Soy for which sampling demonstrates the presence of ambrosia, a weed seed         

The United States does not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with Egypt. The 1999 U.S.-Egypt Trade and Investment Framework Agreement however serves as a forum for continuing dialogue for expanding fair and reciprocal trade and investment. Egypt has FTAs with the European Union, Turkey, the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Egypt is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), composed of 18-member states. It is also a member of the Tripartite Free Trade Area; composed of member states and partners from COMESA, the East African Community, and the Southern African Development Community.

Egypt in 2018 joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), composed of 44 countries. The EU-Egypt FTA and other free trade agreements are eroding the competitiveness of wide range of U.S. products. In 2018, U.S. food and agricultural exports to Egypt grew to $1.94 billion or up nearly 145 percent compared to $795 million in 2017.  Leading imports were corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, beef and beef products, feeds and fodders, dairy products, soybean meal, vegetable oils, and tree nuts.  U.S. food and agricultural exports to Egypt through February 2019, at $343 million are already up 24 percent compared to 2017.  

U.S. corn exports to Egypt grew to $320 million in 2018, up from $23 million in 2017. U.S. wheat exports in 2018 dropped to $24.5 million, down 27 percent compared to 2017.  U.S. wheat exports to Egypt through February 2019 are however up to $78.5 million. Current sales are still well below 2013’s imports of $509 million.  The proximity of Black Sea and improving quality of wheat from the Black Sea region has seriously eroded U.S. market share.  U.S. exports of cotton grew by 54 percent or $19 million from $36 million in 2017 to $55 million in 2018.  

U.S. exports of beef and beef products continued to drop in 2018, reaching $66 million, down nine percent from 2017’s exports of $72 million.  U.S. dairy product exports also dropped to $30.5 million, down 15 percent from 2017’s exports of $36 million.  U.S. exports of tree nuts however grew to $23.5 million, up 147 percent compared to 2017. 

Egyptian Presidential Decree 25 (2016) increased tariff rates on a wide range of imports, including agricultural and food items, to curb outflows of hard currency. The government stressed that the tariff increases are in compliance with WTO obligations, as the increases are within the bound rates.  Tariffs on fresh apple, grapes and pears increased from 30 percent to 40 percent, while tariffs on nuts increased from 10 percent to 20 percent. Overall, Egypt’s agricultural import applied tariffs are set lower than the bound rate. 

Egypt’s major agricultural exports to the world are potatoes, cotton, and fresh fruit, primarily citrus.  Most of Egypt’s exports are destined for the EU, Russia, North Africa and the Middle East.  In 2018, Egyptian exports of food and agriculture products to the United States reached a record $151 million, up 19 percent or growing by $24.5 million compared to 2017.  Main exports to the United States included processed fruit and vegetables, spices, essential oils, and herbs.  

Import duties on most agriculture products remain minimal, with some notable exceptions (alcoholic beverages and tobacco).  Although custom tariffs for fresh fruits and dried nuts that were raised twice in 2013 and 2016 are affecting U.S. exports, in general, the United States enjoys good access to this market. As cited above, some non-tariffs barriers persist, including non-science-based standards and inspection requirements for some goods, which result in product detention and delayed shipments.

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