The Greatest Grapes of All
With access to one of the most strategic waterways in the world, rich lands and warm weather, Egypt has positioned itself as a leading producer of fresh fruits and vegetables. The widespread range of local production offers a multitude of fresh agricultural produce all year round.
Potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, beets, pomegranates, and mangoes make up only a few of the diverse array of products exported out of Egypt, but we’re here to put the spotlight on one of the region’s most famous native crops, which even holds historical value – of course we’re talking about the naturally sweet, highly nutritious, and extremely versatile Egyptian grapes.
Grapes are one of the most recognized fruits in the world and have been around since time immemorial. In fact, first varieties date back as far as 6000 B.C. Grapes eaten fresh are categorized as table grapes while more recent seedless grape cultivars make up most exports because of their rising popularity among consumers worldwide.
Fun fact – grapes can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where grapes were cultivated very early around the region and had great significance in ancient Egyptian culture. Today, they are mostly eaten fresh or made into jam, vinegar, and seed oil.
If you’re a fan of fruit, you’ve probably enjoyed some grapes on a bright sunny day. But this delicious berry doesn’t share the same qualities everywhere. In fact, grapes come in a broad range of shades and flavors. So, before we dive even deeper into one of the world’s largest grape producers, let us introduce you to the top Egyptian grape varieties and their defining factors.
With excellent weather conditions, Egypt’s grape season will be off to a great start for the Early Sweet variety. This is a white, seedless grape and the first of the season to ripen. The Early Sweets are round and give out a unique aroma. The secret of their successful production is recognizing their optimal harvest time, which translates to their quality. The Superior grapes are also one of the early varieties. They have a bright-green crunchy exterior and offer a burst of fresh flavor.
What we know as “green grapes” are more professionally referred to as the Thompson variety. This oval and fairly large grape has a crisp texture filled with a sweet, almost tropical flavor, making it a preferred choice among many worldwide. This variety also makes up the world’s leading raisin production.
Moving to the opposite side of the color palette. The Flame Seedless is a purple-colored variety producing large clusters of medium-sized berries with the right balance of sweetness. The Crimson is a bright red, rich berry characterized mostly by its sweet, almost spicy flavor. And finally, the Red Globe. This is the most abundant berry of the rounded varieties. Its red exterior is filled with a slightly more delicate flavor than its smaller berry relatives.
Short Season, Intense Volumes
Egypt has earned a strong reputation as a supplier of fresh table grapes of exceptional quality. With production of 1.7 million tons per year mostly headed to North Europe, this is the country’s second most crucial crop after the citrus. Over the past few years, Egypt has witnessed a sharp increase of table grape exports, driving producers to broaden their harvests toward higher-quality varieties to meet the consumers’ changing flavor demands and healthy eating habits.
Egypt’s massive table grape agriculture spreads geographically from Delta in the North to Aswan in the South, which enables an extended availability of the fresh fruit in most areas of the country. Egypt’s grape season emerges as varieties mature. Earlier grape varieties begin to appear around May while other mid-season varieties are harvested in July and later ones in October. Once harvested, they preserve their color and flavor, which is why it’s important to pick them at the right moment before they overdevelop. While the grape season may be referred to as short, the peak between May and June opens a narrow window of opportunity for massive exports.
This is what drove the launch of ZIM’s dedicated reefer service. What began as a dedicated line specifically for Egyptian grape exports, has turned ZIM into one of Egypt’s leading carriers for the fruit, covering the needs of local exporters and accounting for nearly half of the overall trade. This multi-modal service began seven years ago and introduced customers to a direct weekly route from Alexandria Port to Europe’s main export getaway, Koper, where all refrigerated shipments are then transported to any destination in the region.
The vast availability of this top-quality fruit wouldn’t be possible without Egypt’s Mediterranean climate. Still, fresh crops may face uncertain seasons from time to time. As Amani Selim, ZIM Egypt Country Manager describes, “When it comes to our Egyptian grapes, you never really know what the season brings. Sometimes extreme weather may ruin the crops which is why it is essential to arrange for the coming season two to three months prior. Once we receive updated forecasts from the growers themselves, we can prepare accordingly.”
“No Waiting Time, No Delays”
Like most fresh commodities, grapes are delicate fruits and sensitive to changes in temperature, which is why it is so important for them to be transported in refrigerated containers with fresh air supply and humidity levels, while never exceeding their arrival date – a common concern for many customers. With external depots, located at strategic locations along the grapevines of Egypt’s northern coast and not far from the terminal, clients don’t have to worry about admitting their containers in time. Amani adds, “We are all aware that this is a hectic season for our customers, determining the exact time at which containers enter and exit the terminal is the priority. This has allowed them to enter the terminal up to the very last moment, without any restrictions.”
With additional premium services like sending technicians directly to the customers’ loading site, providing necessary equipment and maintenance, or offering a complete tracking service of the cargos’ journey, it is no wonder that this service is fully booked.
Surely, Egypt’s local grape exports have always flourished. Amani, who has witnessed the excitement first-hand explains, “It can either be a good season, or a very good season for our grapes.” With the country’s location and ideal environment, Egypt is certainly a powerful grape-supplying country to count on!