This week, a trade mission organised by TradexFirm International, saw a number of exporters from Spain, Egypt and Poland visit the UK capital in a bid to make new import contacts.
Omar Othman, senior export sales executive at Egyptian exporter Ghabbour Farms, stressed the importance of the UK market and the company’s desire to do more direct sales to retailers.
“We have been going through Capespan UK, but now we want to communicate more direct with our customers,” he said. “We have a good understanding of what our customers in the UK want, so we are ready to fulfil their requirements. Going direct leads to clearer communication and better prices for both parties. There are challenges, such as the requirement by some customers for special packaging, but we are ready.”
Ghabbour Farms is currently building a third fully automated packhouse for its grapes and mangoes, which should be ready for the grape season in May.
“Mangoes are our main product for the UK,” continued sales director Mohamed Sheta. “We do around 6,000 tonnes, and we have a packing line with a capacity of 10 tonnes per hour.”
According to Sheta, the company is interested in introducing mango varieties that are less well known in the UK. “Keitt and Kent are well known in the UK, but we want to push varieties like Maya, Naomi, Osteen, Yasmina and Fagr Klan.”
The UK’s high standards continue to be an attraction for exporters like Ghabbour Farms, enabling them to differentiate themselves from the competition. “It is a tough job in the packhouse, but it is worth it,” said Othman. “Two years ago, we did two containers of mangoes, last year we did nine containers. This year, we expect to reach 40-50 containers, all by sea.”
According to Sheta, sending by sea may be challenging, but it served to distinguish the company. “Nobody was exporting mangoes by sea,” he said. “We are learning. It is an expensive learning curve, but we’ve got to do it. Our production is growing fast, and Egypt and the wider Middle East region cannot take all these volumes.”
In addition to Felixstowe, on the southeast coast of the UK, Ghabbour Farms also sends to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. “Last year, we sent our mangoes to Felixstowe and Rotterdam, so we are targeting both Europe and the UK this year. Our mangoes can now travel for 12-15 days, and it is 13 days to Felixstowe and around 15 to Rotterdam. But this is nothing compared with Peru’s 28 days. If they can do it, so can we.”