EGYPT – Since January 25, EgyptAir cargo flights transporting strawberries, raspberries, beans, peas, broccoli, and spring onions for the Tulpin Group have been rerouted to Brussels airport due to the temporary closure of Ostend airport in Belgium.

Alain Tulpin, Chairman of the Tulpin Group, highlights the necessary two-month maintenance work at Ostend airport, costing EUR 7 million (USD 7.62 million), which includes runway and taxiway improvements to accommodate larger energy-efficient planes.

He emphasizes the significance of Ostend airport’s reopening on March 28, just ahead of the Easter holidays, crucial for the passenger company TUI fly, carrying 400,000 passengers annually from Ostend.

To address the challenge posed by the temporary closure, Tulpin, who chairs the Association for Development of Ostend Cargo Airport (ADOC), led efforts to find an alternative solution for daily Egyptair cargo flights bringing fresh produce from Egypt to Ostend.

“In early 2023, we announced the planned works and recognized the need for an alternative for EgyptAir cargo flights,” explains Alain.

A study by ADOCA identified Brussels Airport as the most viable option due to its efficiency, proximity to the UK, and overall logistics advantages.

Exploratory talks, initiated during Fruit Logistica 2023, led to discussions with Ostend and Brussels Airports, as well as handler Aviapartner management.

Tulpin highlighted the collaborative effort, stating, “An ADOCA delegation visited Cairo, where they presented the Brussels project.”

“We demonstrated that Brussels was the best alternative, serving both Egyptian exporters and European and English importers’ interests while keeping costs under control. In early November, the proposal was accepted by Egyptair.”

End of Egyptian strawberry season

Despite the rerouting of supply, Alain assures that the project does not jeopardize the end of the Egyptian strawberry season.

He discusses the robust demand and quick sales experienced until New Year’s, with the second production wave commencing in mid-January.

However, he acknowledges challenges in the UK, where a quota system imposes a 10% levy on Egyptian strawberries after reaching a specific volume.

As Alain notes a shift in Egypt’s focus towards the frozen market, especially IQF frozen strawberries, he anticipates the last Egyptian strawberries on the market in early March. Additionally, he mentions the impact of a significant supply of Spanish strawberries from Huelva.

Saudi’s temporary suspension of strawberry imports

In a related development, Saudi Arabia’s temporary suspension of strawberry imports, affecting global suppliers, including Egypt, is clarified by Saad Moussa of Egypt’s Central Administration of Plant Quarantine.

Moussa attributes the measure to balance supply and demand in the Kingdom’s market, emphasizing it as a regulatory move rather than a health concern.

Importers with valid permits, including those from Egypt, are set to resume shipments from February 1.

This collaborative initiative and strategic redirection of cargo underscore the adaptability and resilience of the supply chain, ensuring the continuity of fresh produce exports despite unforeseen challenges.

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