Saudi Arabia is no longer importing strawberries from Egypt citing above-normal concentrations of farm pesticide residues that pose potential public health hazards.
In a notice sent to all strawberry exporters on 4 February, the Egyptian General Organisation for Import and Export Control said the ban took effect on 18 January.
It followed the discovery of potentially hazardous concentrations of farm pesticide residues in Egyptian strawberry imports by health inspectors in Riyadh. The ban is expected to negatively impact the 2017/’18 farming season, which runs between November and April.
To avoid complete losses, strawberry farmers have been urged to find new export markets or at worst, sell locally at lower prices. In 2017, Egyptian exported 39 000 tons of strawberries to Saudi Arabia, which raked in an estimated US$90 million in export earnings.
Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ministry Spokesman Hamed Abdel-Dayem told local media that consultations between the 2 countries are ongoing and the ban could be lifted soon. He said preliminary investigations suggest the contaminated products came from new dealers who are still ignorant of the rules and specifications for fruit exports.
STRAWBERRY INSPECTION TIGHTENED
Abdel-Dayem said Egypt has since introduced regulations that require all export-bound strawberries to be inspected several times in the field, once post-harvest and once more prior to export.
Even producers who do not export should be registered to enable the export control authority to inspect the farms and post-harvest handling facilities. Sub-offices of the Central Laboratory for Pesticide Residues are being set up around strawberry farming zones to make the inspection service more accessible.