Egypt’s prominent yearly furniture fair Le Marché has been cancelled by state authorities over “security concerns” three days before it was set to start, causing significant losses for local manufacturers, an official from the fair’s organising committee said on Wednesday.
“At first, the interior ministry did not grant us [the organisers] approval [to hold the fair], but after we appealed to officials, permission was granted earlier this week, so companies started to set up their stands,” said Yousry Abul-Naga, the head of the fairs' organisers division at the Federation of Egyptian Industries.
“The security permit was shortly withdrawn, doubling the exhibitors’ losses.”
The 32-year-old fair, organised by Tarek Nour Communications (TNC) and Arab African Promoters for International Conferences and Exhibitions (AAPI), was set to take place from 22 to 25 December.
After confirming on Monday that the fair will be held on time, Le Marche said on its official Facebook page on Tuesday that the fair is “postponed for reasons out of our control, and we will update you with the new date [as soon as possible].”
The organisers of the fair published an ad in Al-Ahram newspaper pleading to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to intervene.
“The losses of around 200 to 300 companies participating in the fair are estimated at EGP 200 to EGP 300 million,” Abul-Naga told Ahram Online.
Last week, 27 people were killed in a Cairo church bombing, two days after an explosion in Giza’s Haram district killed six policemen.
Mohamed Shabrawy, the deputy head of the Chamber of Wood Working and Furniture Industries, said “it is a difficult time for security with the church and Haram attacks of last week,” though he added that the fair has been postponed, not cancelled.
“Local manufacturers are suffering the heaviest losses. They have worked all year for this fair. These manufacturers have to support their employees, who range from 100 to 150 workers per company,” Shabrawy said.
Abdel-Haleem El-Iraqi, CEO of local manufacturer French Home Furniture, one of the exhibitors of Le Marche, said that “the cancellation of the fair has had a tough impact on us,” adding that he was informed the fair has indeed been cancelled, not postponed.
“In such dire conditions of high prices and a stagnant market; we hoped the fair would have balanced our revenues,” El-Iraqi said.
Egypt's economy has been struggling since 2011 uprising, with a sharp drop in tourism and foreign investment, two main sources of hard currency for the import-dependent country.
“Our profit from Le Marche is not only during the fair itself, but it helps [the business] all year. We have been working for the past six months to produce new models and designs for the fair. The initial losses from losing our stand at the fair are half-a-million pounds,” El-Iraqi said.
According to the official statistic body CAMPAS, the furniture sector employed 270,222 workers across 104,250 establishments in 2013.
The value of exports by the furniture industry stands at EGP 305.1 million, according to a September press release by Egypt's Ministry of Industry.