The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) said on Sunday that Egypt’s trade balance deficit had decreased by 25.2 per cent to $2.69 billion during March this year, compared to $3.59 billion for the same month in 2020.
The agency indicated that this was mainly driven by the increased volume of exports, which rose by 43.5 per cent to reach $3.41 billion during March 2021, compared to $2.38 billion in March 2020, due to increases in the value of exports of commodities such as medicine and pharmaceutical products, which went up by 54.2 per cent, garments, up by 49.3 per cent, and food products, up by 18.4 per cent.
CAPMAS also reported a slight increase in the value of imports by 2.2 per cent, to record $6.1 billion during March 2021, due to increases in the value of some commodities, such as petroleum products, which rose by 92.5 per cent, passenger cars, up by 73.9 per cent, and medicines and pharmaceuticals, up by 9.7 per cent.
Minister of Trade and Industry Niveen Gamea announced recently that Egyptian non-oil exports had achieved a tangible increase of 11 per cent during the first four months of 2021, reaching $9.8 billion, compared to about $8.8 billion in the same period of 2020.
She added that this increase had come despite the tough conditions caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and had been thanks to efforts made by the government to support production and export sectors during the crisis, helping in the preservation of export markets.
According to Ismail Gaber, head of the General Organisation for Export and Import Control (GOEIC), the majority of Egyptian exports during the first four months of this year came from the medical industries sector with a value of $236 million compared to $148 million during the same period of 2020, an increase of 60 per cent, and the handicrafts sector, with a value of $93 million compared to $61 million in 2020.
The garments sector had exported products in the first four months of this year worth $586 million compared to $433 million in 2020, an increase of 35 per cent, he said.
Gaber added in a press statement that there were five countries whose markets account for 30.1 per cent of total Egyptian exports, including the US, with a value of $676 million, Turkey with exports valued at $651 million, Saudi Arabia with a value of $633 million, Italy at $586 million, and Malta with exports from Egypt valued at $406 million.
There are five top exporting countries to the Egyptian market, according to Gaber, with imports accounting for 41.2 per cent of total Egyptian imports from international markets. They include China, with imports worth $4.1 billion, the US, with a value of $2.09 billion, Germany, with $1.3 billion, Russia, with imports valued at $1.1 billion, and Italy with imports worth $877 million.
A report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation on exports from January to May 2021 showed that the volume of Egyptian agricultural exports had risen to more than 3.3 million tons.
Main products exported included grapes, strawberries, onions, garlic, pomegranates, potatoes, beans, guavas, mangoes, and peppers. Egyptian agricultural products are currently available in the markets of more than 160 countries, with an increase of about 250,000 tons in the first five months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
Egypt aims to raise export rates in the coming years to reach $100 billion by opening new markets and increasing the export of products from sectors that have a competitive advantage, such as the chemicals sector, building materials, agricultural crops, garments, and food industries.
Gamea highlighted the importance of bank financing of export and import-substitution projects, in addition to supporting small and medium-sized industries, which are one of the engines of economic growth and provide millions of job opportunities.
Export support allocations have been increased to LE4.2 billion in the draft budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year amid talks to increase allocations to LE6 billion.
A number of exporters expect growth in Egypt’s non-oil exports of about 10 per cent by the end of 2021 to $28.3 billion compared to $25.2 billion during the same period of 2020.
Khaled Abul-Makarem, chair of the Export Council for Chemical Industries and Fertilisers, expects Egyptian exports to grow by eight to 10 per cent by the end of 2021, basing his expectations on a decline in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the growing vaccination rate in many countries, as well as the state’s continued efforts to limit the economic effects of the pandemic.
“The high cost of shipping and the continuing shortage of supplies from China as a result of the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic have led to difficulties for many countries in meeting their needs, including countries neighbouring Egypt. This has been what drives these countries to continue importing our products,” Abul-Makarem explained.
“The announcement of a new export support programme by the Ministry of Trade and Industry also gives us high hopes for further exports,” he added.
The ministry’s new programme aims to contribute to maintaining the current export growth rates and to increase them over the next two years by 10 per cent in the first year and 15 per cent in the second. It hopes to achieve growth rates of 20 per cent in the following years.
The new programme seeks to strengthen export infrastructure, including facilitating and supporting transport on the African continent, as well as providing services that benefit different export sectors.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly