EGYPT – The Ministry of Trade and Industry has postponed the implementation of a decision to stop the export of onions for a period of three months until the beginning of October.

According to the ministry, this delay was necessary to ensure previously arranged export agreements were honored.

The decision by the Egyptian Cabinet to impose a ban on onion exports was influenced by the need to regulate skyrocketing prices in local markets.

The price of onions in Egypt has soared to EGP 35 (USD 1.12) per kilogram in some local markets across Egypt, up from EGP 27 (USD 0.87) last month and EGP 12 (0.39 USD) a year ago.

The increase has resulted in the annual headline urban consumer inflation rate of 37.4 percent in August, up from 36.5% a month earlier, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

The report further highlights that the food and beverages segment recorded a monthly inflation rate of 2.2 percent in August 2023 with the price of vegetables rising even faster, increasing 24.4% in August, up from 5.5% the previous month.

This is an unusual trend as onions in Egypt have traditionally been one of the most affordable vegetables in the country and are a staple in the country’s cuisine.

Additionally, Egypt’s onion supply is self-sufficient because the country consistently harvests more than three million tons of onions annually and only exports a third of that number.

The hiked prices according to recent comments by Alaa Khalil, the director of the Field Crops Research Institute at the Ministry of Agriculture, to the Happening in Egypt TV program an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, can thus be attributed to the rising tendencies of intermediaries and some traders to hoard onions.

Over-reliance on exports by farmers can have several effects. One of the most significant effects is that it can lead to a lack of food security in the exporting country. 

A report by York University highlights that when farmers focus on producing crops for export, they may neglect to grow crops for domestic consumption, which can lead to food shortages and higher prices for consumers.

“Some of the deficit in horticultural products is due to the seasonality of the growing season,” states the report. “But a significant percentage of the crops that comprise this deficit could be produced and stored if it were a priority of domestic agricultural policy.”

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