red sea

Red Sea Disruptions Hit Egyptian Citrus Exports

Daniel CooperInternational, Shipping

red sea

Attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen on commercial vessels have resulted in many shipping companies rerouting away from two of the world’s busiest shipping routes — the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Egyptian citrus exports have been part of the global trade and supply chain that has been disrupted by the attacks.

Consequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA/FAS) has reduced its forecast for Egyptian orange exports for 2023–24 by 250,000 metric tons, or 12.5%, to 1.75 million metric tons.


Since Dec. 15, 2023, several container-shipping companies have paused their services through the Red Sea — the route through which traffic from the Suez Canal normally passes. Increased transit fees and war risk insurance premiums have encouraged companies to seek alternative routes around the Cape of Good Hope. As a result, an increasing number of shipping vessels have diverted to a much longer route. This has increased travel time by an average of two weeks for a container ship from Europe to Asia.

For the past five years, Egypt has been the second largest global exporter of citrus, slightly smaller than South Africa. Before the Houthi attacks, most Egyptian citrus exports transited through the Red Sea.

Exports to Saudi Arabia continue to flow normally to the port of Jeddah, per existing trade routes through the Red Sea in an area significantly north of the Houthi attacks. However, for citrus destined for other Gulf countries, the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope has added an average of two weeks, impacting the quality of Egypt’s citrus exports.


Freight rates have reportedly increased by as much as $6,000 per container for exports destined for Asia that route around the Cape of Good Hope. As a result, the quantity arriving in the market has fallen, and the quality of the fruit has been significantly impacted, This has caused a citrus shortage in many Asian countries.

Egyptian oranges are the preferred citrus fruit among many Asian consumers, but the current disruption in citrus trade could lead to market opportunities for other suppliers.

Russia continues to be one of the largest export markets for Egyptian citrus (particularly oranges), and supplies have not been significantly impacted from the Red Sea trade disruptions.

As exports to Asia become increasingly challenged, Egyptian exporters have increasingly diverted product to the European market. However, competition with major citrus-exporting countries (such as South Africa and Türkiye) has led to a glut of citrus.

See the full USDA FAS report here.

Source: USDA FAS

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