Experts believe the decision by a court in Egypt to order the uprooting of illegally planted Early Sweet grape vines is good news in terms of the country’s access to the best varieties

The Beni Suef Economic Court in Egypt has order the removal of an area of nearly 5ha of unlicensed Early Sweet grapes, planted in violation of Intellectual Property Rights Law No 82 of 2002, which Egypt ratified following its accession to the International Convention for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV) in 2019.

Around 9,000 vines were removed, along with seedlings, while the farm owner was ordered to halt any propagation, sale, display or export of the variety, with the penalty of reoffending involving a prison sentence of up to a year, in addition to a fine.

Agricultural experts say that the court’s decision in favour of breeder Grapa Company is historical, setting a much-needed precedent and encouraging increased investments in the agricultural sector, Agri2day reported.

Earlier this year, a nursery owner was given a huge fine for propagating Early Sweet grapes and selling them without the owner’s consent, a phenomenon that has reportedly become more common.

“This is a historic precedent,” one source in Egypt stated, “as it is the first time commercial plantings are uprooted by law in Egypt. Since Egypt joined UPOV, the country has been working on improving the climate for IPR in agriculture and in fighting infringement. This will have a huge impact on Egypt’s exports, not just of grapes, but also of citrus and strawberries next season.”

Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture H.E. El Sayed El Qosair issued a decree last year regulating the export process for fruit and vegetables and requiring all farms and packhouses to be registered and assessed before gaining the right to export.

This, the same source said, has boosted the sector visibly. “He mandated the task of regulating the export of intellectually protected varieties to the phytosanitary authorities, which have done a huge job in organising the sector and stopping illegal fruit from being exported,” he said. “In past years there have been numerous incidents where grapes and strawberries exported from Egypt were stopped at European ports and seized for evading Intellectual Property Rights.”

Such an outcome not only leads to high financial losses for exporters, but also negatively impacts on Egypt’s international reputation in the agricultural sector.

“This ruling, together with the steps taken by the Ministry in fighting infringement, is expected to encourage breeding companies to invest in Egypt with new varieties, which are desperately needed,” the source said.

A statement from Grapa Company read: “This is a pivotal step, as it shows that the legal system and authorities in Egypt are determined to protect Intellectual Property Rights, especially in the wake of the country joining the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

“Grapa is now reinforced to continue pursuing illegal plantations, nurseries and exporters, as part of its systematic efforts to protect its varieties globally, which ultimately benefits the entire supply chain.

“This wind of change, and the developments it will ensue will naturally boost Egypt’s image in international markets, thus increasing Egypt’s ability to access new protected varieties and achieve the highest return from agriculture, as well as reducing the cost of production and maximising the return to farmers for these protected crops.

”On behalf of the breeding industry, Grapa would like to thank the Egyptian minister of agriculture H.E. El Sayed EL Qosair and his team for the enormous efforts they have done to create a healthy climate for breeders to invest in Egypt and introduce in new varieties, and for their efforts together with the phytosanitary authorities to regulate the export process of fresh grapes which made Egypt an important and respected player on the global market.”

Egypt exports around 150,000 tonnes of grapes a year and is currently the world’s largest exporter of fresh oranges. “This is huge for citrus also,” the Egyptian source added. “I expect to see a revolution in Egyptian orange exports in the coming years.”