Citrus Sector Overview

Citrus Sector Overview

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AMD Sector Overview Videos

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Response to Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

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With $176 million in exports in 2015, the hazelnut is Georgia’s highest earning agricultural export and supports the livelihoods of over 40,000 families. However, the stability and profitability of the hazelnut sector, as well as the incomes of the smallholder farmers who depend upon it, are being threatened by the rapid growth of a pest known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).

Originating in China, the BMSB is devastating the hazelnut sector by reducing the quality and quantity of hazelnut kernels. Left uncontrolled, the BMSB could set the country back years of agricultural growth and development in other sectors including apples, corn, grapes, peaches, and vegetables.

To address these challenges, the USAID Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production (REAP) project received an additional $3 million to provide technical assistance and equipment to Georgia’s National Food Agency (NFA) between April 2017 and September 2018. By working closely with the Government of Georgia to develop a State Program with a focus on monitoring and managing the BMSB’s growth, REAP strengthened the capacity of local institutions to limit the agricultural losses caused by the pest. REAP’s efforts also helped the Government of Georgia better understand the BMSB’s biology to better inform management of the infestation.

Program Approach:

  1. State Program Development Support: In partnership with local and U.S.-based entomologists, REAP managed the design and oversight of the Government of Georgia’s action plan through its local Working Group, spearheaded by the NFA. The Working Group was used to develop an implementation strategy, define the monitored area, and calculate the budget of the State Program to combat the infestation;
  2. Communications and Outreach: Because the BMSB was new to Georgia, it was crucial to increase awareness and understanding amongst Georgian farmers, citizens, and extension agents before any monitoring and management strategies could be implemented. In cooperation with the NFA, REAP developed communications materials to educate citizens, District Task Force staff, and other public and private extension agents about BMSB management. A Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping platform augmented the approach, visualizing data for the NFA and general public to track BMSB and other pests;
  3. Training: To prepare Georgia’s Ministry of Agriculture for the monitoring and management the BMSB, REAP delivered a multi-faceted training program on BMSB identification, trap establishment and maintenance, and the safe use and application of pesticides;
  4. Local Capacity Building: Experience in the U.S. and Europe indicated that the invasive BMSB will be present in Georgia for an extended period of time. To ensure that the Government of Georgia is able to manage the BMSB in the present and future, REAP worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to outfit local NFA staff and entomologists with awareness, monitoring and management through local research and a capacity-building trip to the United States;
  5. Procurement Support: To equip the Ministry of Agriculture with the tools necessary to monitor and manage the BMSB, REAP worked with the NFA to procure the required equipment to implement the State Program, such as traps, lures, and spraying equipment.
  6. Private Sector Engagement: In order to manage the infestation, CNFA partnered with Trécé Inc, a US-based leading-edge research and development provide latest solutions in insect population monitoring and control.

Training Women in the Agro-Processing Workforce on Nutrition

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Despite their matching green uniforms, Alaa, Hajar and Mariam each have their own specific role at El Baiaho Agricultural Community Development Association pack house, located in the outskirts of Minya, Egypt. Alaa labels the dewy green grapes with a branded sticker. Hajar takes the grapes from the packaging line and makes sure they are ready for sale. And Mariam weighs the grapes before packaging.
“We wish to work. This job allows us to get our own money for private [education] lessons and we are also able to help our families,” said Hajar.

Alaa, Hajar, and Mariam are just three of the young women hired by El Baiaho to support their post-harvest operations which involves sorting, packaging and storing a variety of crops, including grapes, pomegranate, tomato, and garlic for export. All three women are still attending school during the day, after which they make the journey to work. During their holiday breaks, these women spend even longer hours to increase their income.

In early June, Alaa, Hajar, and Mariam temporarily hung up their green jackets along with their fellow female employees at El Baiaho to participate in a training focused on nutrition for women in the agro-processing workforce. Across Egypt, undernutrition and stunting rates for children remain high, which results in economic costs that hinder the development of the nation.

To address this issue, USAID’s Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project organized a three-day training aimed at building awareness on nutritional requirements for teenage girls and to promote the importance of investing their income in their own and their future children’s health and nutrition. The training was led by Dr. Amal Hassanein Abouelmajed, Agri-Nutrition team leader on the FAS project who has a postgraduate diploma in hospital dietetics and has extensive experience working in food and nutrition on projects across Egypt and has attended trainings internationally.

The hands-on training instilled participants with knowledge on the types of food that are critical for improving health and child development, such as identifying foods rich in iron, vitamins and proteins. The young women also received training in good hygienic practices, such as the importance of hand washing as well as practical methods to prevent food poisoning. “I learned a lot that I did not know before. I learned about how to organize food in the fridge to keep it fresh,” said Hajar.

“I learned about the food pyramid which helped me to know what types of food and how much to eat to stay healthy,” said Alaa.

The training did not stop at the doors of El Baiaho. All three young women spoke of sharing the knowledge and tools they had acquired through the training with their families back home. “The day I got the training, I went home and practiced what I learned with my family. I opened up the fridge and showed them what we should now do,” said Mariam.

This training was just one piece of what the FAS project aims to achieve to improve the nutritional status particularly of women and children. Over the coming two years, the FAS project plans to provide training to 300 community nutrition mobilizers, who in turn will conduct outreach on nutrition to 3,000 households. In addition to expanding nutrition trainings to women in the agro-processing workforce to additional companies, the FAS team is also in the early stages of sending out SMS text messages that focus on key nutrition topics through the digital extension service platform (DESP). Using this method, more women will be exposed to the essential knowledge on the link between nutrition and leading healthy, productive lives.

“This type of training is so good for us because when we grow up and have our own children, we will know better how to keep our family healthy,” said Hajar.

Linking Mango Farmers to New Markets in Egypt

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A turquoise blue pickup truck pulls into Al Obour Market, carrying crate on crate of ripe mangoes stacked in the truck bed. It’s the crack of dawn and the energy at Al Obour, one of the largest fruit and vegetable markets in Cairo, Egypt, begins to shift from the stillness that takes hold for only a few hours overnight to bustling activity at the first sight of light as farmers and buyers congregate to make deals on grapes, watermelon, tomatoes, or any other produce. Simultaneously, a group of nine farmers open the door of their white van and step on to the sidewalk of the market, sleep still at the corner of their eyes.

The FAS team leads a mango post-harvest training in Aswan, Egypt

These farmers made the 14-hour drive from Aswan with the support of the Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project, which aims to increase the incomes and improve food security for at least 14,000 Upper Egyptian smallholder farmers, to connect with buyers that could potentially offer higher prices than the local market in Aswan. This day did not occur in isolation but was instead the product of months of training and preparation for these farmers.

As one of the largest markets in Cairo, the buyers at Al Obour Market will not purchase just any mangoes. Instead, they seek out quality mango, perfectly ripe and free of bruising. The farmers in Aswan originally struggled with post-harvest losses and producing high-quality mangoes that could earn higher prices. Part of the problem came from lack of access to inputs, whereas others revolved around harvesting techniques, such as when farmers shook the trees until the mangoes fell to the ground. In order to address these issues, the FAS harvest and post-harvest team conducted on-farm training to 49 mango farmers in Aswan. The four-day training introduced participating farmers to new harvesting techniques in order to retain the quality and reduce damages of the mangoes during harvest. For example, the FAS team designed a new tool that enabled farmers to pick the mangoes directly from the tree, keeping the fruit fresh and free from bruising. Attending mango farmers also learned about the importance of sorting and packing the mango fruits in carton boxes, which helps retain the high-quality of the fruit, resulting in higher prices for farmers.

But the training didn’t just stop once the mangoes were properly picked and packed. The FAS project also aims to improve farmers and producer organizations’ marketing of agricultural crops, ultimately allowing farmers to reap higher profits. The Aswan mango farmers previously sold to middlemen before the fruit had matured for a low price in order to get fast cash to pay off agricultural expenses. The FAS marketing team conducted extensive training with farmers in marketing and negotiation to give farmers the knowledge and confidence to connect directly with buyers. The project also encouraged farmers to come together and sell with other farmers in order to gain bargaining power.

Usama Abdel Rahman, a FAS Marketing Officer from Aswan, played a key role in training farmers in the negotiation skills that would be utilized in Al Obour Market. “The trainings were very interactive. We would use scripts and role play to give farmers firsthand experience in negotiation,” he said.

So, when the day came for the farmers to meet with the buyers, they were well prepared. Farmers represented nine agriculture associations in Aswan and brought along with them a 1.5 ton sample of their mangoes. As a group, the farmers walked around the market and sat down more than a few times with buyers to talk logistics and numbers. Ultimately, all nine of the farmers made their sale to Haj Adly Abdel Gabbar of Al Itehad Company. Whereas these farmers on average sell their mangoes for LE 6 per kilo in Aswan market, this trader facilitated selling the mangoes at LE 11.5 per kilo, nearly doubling the price. Haj Abdel Gabbar was clear that the farmers aren’t the only ones that benefit, as he received 10% commission for facilitating such a purchase.

“I am also happy because I get to deal with the farmers directly and these mangoes here are very good quality. This will result in increasing the profit margin for farmers which will improve their economic status which reflects positively on the economic development of the country,” he said.

This day stood as a testament of the tangible knowledge and skills these farmers have acquired through the FAS project and their ability to utilize these skills to connect with new markets and sell their produce at higher prices. Although a small step, these farmers left Al Obour market making it known that Aswan has the potential to become a reliable source of quality mango.

Leveraging Digital Solutions to Improve Farmers’ Yields in Egypt

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Across Egypt, many farmers struggle with low productivity, poor quality of produce, and post-harvest losses, resulting in a significant loss in income. Even when crops are healthy, pests can destroy a large part of the harvest, incorrect harvesting techniques can bruise fruits and vegetables and packaging can impact the quality of the produce.

Shaaban Mohamed Ghallab, a farmer in Esna Village, Egypt, previously grew onions solely for his family’s consumption at home. Despite having an interest in expanding his production and selling beyond his home, he lacked the know-how in post-harvest handling to make the change.

The ICT platform sent daily text messages to farmers on agriculture best practices in Arabic

Shaaban is just one of 132 onion farmers participating in the Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project that received hands-on technical training to acquire the knowledge and skills on post-harvest handling techniques as well as daily SMS text messages that serve as a timely reminder to follow through on practices learned during training.

Over the course of four weeks, participants were trained on best practices for the harvesting, sorting, and packing of onions and tomatoes for local and export markets. Key messages included; ensuring good hygiene during harvest and handling, minimizing irrigation directly prior to harvest to ensure strong stalks and prevent new root germination, integrated pest management to minimize damage from rats and crows, and proper drying of onions post-harvest. Shaaban was selected as a lead farmer, meaning he applied the best practices from the training and provided advice to farmers both in the program as well as in the broader community. As a trusted voice, farmers often looked to Shaaban for recommendations and reassurance regarding agricultural practices. “Farmers would call me and say, ‘Do we add this amount of fertilizer? Or, do we follow this practice? Yes or no?’” he said.

The FAS project also developed an information and communications technology (ICT) platform with the support of Souktel Digital Solutions to send follow-up text messages to all participating farmers. These messages were sent to remind farmers of best practices to follow leading up to harvest time as well as during harvest time to prompt farmers on how to maintain quality produce and how to correctly package produce for the markets. “Since most everyone has a phone and we do not have the ability to visit each farmer in-person daily, because of the distance in rural areas, this is an easy way to reach the farmer with key knowledge,” said Mahmoud El-Rady, the FAS Post-harvest Coordinator responsible for queuing up the messages in the system. “The SMS messages are written step by step as if someone is sitting right by the farmers side in the field,” he said.

In Shaaban’s case, one of the important reminders he received was right at harvest time, when the onion was ripe and ready to be picked. “They sent messages about how to look at the fruit and understand whether it is the right time to pick it and what is the right amount of water to give it at a specific time around harvest so it is not damaged. This is sensitive timing when every minute counts and we can’t always wait for someone to come to the field,” said Shaaban. As a lead farmer, Shaaban also encouraged other farmers to open the messages since they contained helpful information.

Since the launch of the platform, more than 4,800 messages have been sent to participating farmers that produce tomatoes, onions, and grapes. Recently, the FAS project began creating content surrounding post-harvest best practices for the cultivation of mangos. Since the platform has proven to be an effective method for communicating with farmers, this tool is being expanded to send messages on agricultural best practices during production as well as to share lessons on nutrition, particularly with women in the agro-processing workforce.

In his first year of working with the FAS project and producing onions for market sale, Shaaban sold 45 tons of onion, making a profit of 27,000 Egyptian pounds (~1,511 USD). Since Shaaban and his family were living with two other families, he used the profit from his onion sales to help purchase a new home for his own family. “I was very happy because my first goal was to just get the training on onion [production]. I did not expect that I would also get this profit,” he said. Shaaban is now looking to take the skills he’s learned and expand his farm to plant other crops that reap high profits, such as hibiscus, in addition to continuing with the production of onion.

Pomegranates Grow into New Market Channels

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With the goal of expanding marketing channels and increasing sales revenues of smallholder pomegranate farmers, USAID’s Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project organized a farmers’ visit to Al Obour wholesale market. The goal of the visit was to successfully negotiate profitable sales agreements by applying sales negotiation best practices which they learned from the FAS project. Five farmers, representing the two largest agricultural associations in Assiut, participated in the visit on September 20th, 2018. Two of the five farmers came from Al Akal Al Bahary Association, which has 65 farmers who collectively own 130 feddans. They produce about 1,000 tons of pomegranate a year. The other three farmers came from Bader Association, which has a membership of 630 farmers who collectively own 750 feddans. They produce about 11,250 tons of pomegranate a year.

FAS production and marketing team train the farmers on negotiation skills

Two days before the visit, the five farmers received hands-on field training from the FAS marketing and post-harvest teams on collecting, sorting, and packing pomegranate to meet Al Obour wholesale market’s required specifications and can help farmers increase their sales opportunities and profit margins. The day before the visit, FAS production and marketing team members trained the farmers on negotiation skills so they could be better equipped to negotiate favorable deals with Al Obour market traders. The FAS team explained to farmers the importance of carefully collecting information on traders and crop prices in the market; the more market information farmers have, the better equipped they are to fetch favorable prices for their crops. FAS provided the farmers with handouts containing sample questions farmers can use to collect market information. In addition, the training covered the importance of identifying the specifications required by dealers and exporters, which will enable farmers to better adhere to specifications to increase possible market channels. The FAS project has identified Al Obour market as an optimal location for pomegranate sales compared to other markets because the market is well connected with pomegranate exporters.

Early in the morning on market day, the five farmers delivered 25 cartons, 5 kilos each, of their high-quality pomegranates to be displayed at Al Obour market. They then applied lessons from their previous days’ training by meeting with traders to collect marketing information. In addition, the Al Obour traders reinforced the importance of sorting, grading, and packing the pomegranates by providing an informal lesson to complement the training they received from the FAS technical team. Farmers then negotiated sales prices with the dealers; in general, buyers will buy the commodities according to the prevailing daily market price, while the dealer will receive a commission from the buyer for services rendered. This commission ranges between 5% to 15% of the purchase amount.


Haj Amro Abo Elela, a well-known trader at Al Obour market, agreed to display the 5 FAS farmers pomegranates at the market with the goal of selling them on the export market. Mr. Abo Elela agreed to an 8% sales commission for any successful export sales, on the condition that the farmers deliver the pomegranates according to the market’s grading, sorting, and packing standards. An eight percent sales commission is considered by farmers to be a favorable commission for export sales.

Haj Gamal Saad, another trader at Al Obour market, agreed to visit the 5 pomegranate farms to review the quality of the pomegranates and the farm facilities. During that visit, he expressed interest in facilitating the sale of their produce, in accordance with the best market price, and with a 5% commission (5%-15% is the current range of acceptable market commission rates).


The visit to Al Obour market allowed the farmers to learn about wholesale operations, sales processes, and to realize the great potential for increased profit margins that they can yield by engaging with traders who can sell their pomegranates for export. By exposing associations and cooperatives to new market channels for one crop, the USAID FAS project also helps member farmers tap into new market channels for other types of crops that they are growing by expanding their awareness of market opportunities.

Farmer Refaat Mohamed Hassan, representative of Al Akal Al Bahary Association explained that “the visit to Al Obour market was beneficial to us (farmers), because we collected a great database which we will use to compare the sales prices and to negotiate the best profitable deals.” Mr. Hassan practiced his new market analysis and negotiation skills by comparing the sales prices in different markets; he ended up selling 15 tons of pomegranate at the Soal wholesale market for EGP 56,250 compared to the EGP 45,000 that he could have sold them for at the local market, which resulted in a 25% income increase.


USAID Egypt Food Security & Agribusiness Support (FAS) Project Links Local Onion Farmers to an International Exporter

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The FAS project supported the Negoaa Mazen agriculture cooperative, based in Sohag governorate, to complete an export contract with ELI company, an Albanian exporter, in which the cooperative sold 45 Metric Tons of high quality onions to ELI. This was the first time an international exporter directly contracted a cooperative without its own packhouse facilities. This success demonstrates the potential a well-managed cooperative has for negotiating and organizing member farmers to deliver on contracts. The elimination of middlemen in this exchange both increased prices available to farmers, and improved information exchange by creating a direct link between farmers and an export market actor.

The onions were sold at a competitive price of LE 5000 per Metric Ton, amounting to a total transaction value of LE 225,000 that is about 10% higher than would otherwise have been available to the farmers for onions of similar quality.

This successful contract between Negoaa Mazen agriculture cooperative and ELI is part of the FAS project’s overall objective to increase smallholder farmer incomes by facilitating opportunities for farmers to sell horticultural crops to export markets. One strategy the project follows for achieving this is to build and encourage formation of new relationships through trade show participation. At the Fruit Logistica Trade Fair in Berlin in February 2019, FAS project had the opportunity to connect with numerous international exporters such as ELI and encourage them to connect with cooperatives and associations with whom the project works, such as Negoaa Mazen. By helping to forge relationships between the buyer and local supplier, the FAS project empowered the Negoaa Mazen Cooperative to negotiate sales terms, and to contract neighboring groups to help them meet buyer demand.

The Negoaa Mazen Cooperative was established in 1962 in Sohag Governorate.  It offers agriculture and marketing services to around 2,000 smallholder farmer members, who collectively own 2,000 feddans of land, about 200 feddans of which are owned by women. Crops include green beans, wheat, onion, sugar cane, and clover. The FAS project provided technical support and regular monitoring for cooperative members to help improve their crop yields and ensure that their product would meet export quality standards. Training and technical assistance included fertilization programs, irrigation, integrated pest management (IPM), and best practices for harvesting. The project also advised farmers on good input supplies to improve product quality and increase their productivity.

In addition to providing the cooperative with technical support on production, the FAS project built Negoaa Mazen Cooperative’s capacity to both maintain high standards of product quality in compliance with exporter requirements, as well as to negotiate suitable contract terms. The FAS project also worked with both parties to help them comply with domestic regulations and manage logistics such as connecting with a local shipping company to export the onions. “We gained experience dealing with the international market, became aware of international standards required by this exporter, and were trained on the proper handling of onion for export by the project,” said farmer Ahmed Saleh, Chairman of Negoaa Mazen Cooperative.

USAID Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support Project Triples Basil Production and Increases Farmer Incomes in Assuit

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Farmer Ayman Solhy

As we walked through Al Sawalem Al Bahareya village in Assuit, a city in Northern Egypt, a sweet scent emanated from the local basil plant. Basil, the village’s main crop, occupies 700 feddans or about one-third of the village’s total 2,160 feddans of cultivated land. Basil is a strategic crop for farmers in this region since it is easy to grow and affordable to produce. Additionally, basil harvesting can occur as often as once per month over five successive months. This means it acts as a steady source of income for farmers and employment for laborers during the harvesting season.

Decreases in Basil Production Due to the Downy Mildew Parasite

In 2015, farmers in Assuit experienced a sharp drop in production as a result of the downy mildew parasite that had begun to infect basil plants in the region. After several inconsistent harvesting seasons, many farmers decided to abandon their basil crops for more consistent crops. “The basil farmers were not able to identify the type of pest that affected their basil and damaged the crop, which made them decide to remove such a strategic crop from their lands,” said Engineer Eslam Al Adawy, Technical Advisor of Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project.

Farmer Abdel Mola Bakry, a board member of Al Sawalem Al Bahareya Agriculture Association, and owner of 20 feddans, including five feddans cultivated with basil, said, “In the last three years, the basil leaves became yellow, with dark dots on the back, and the stem dropped the leaves which decreased the production to 300 kg per feddan for the second and third harvest. We barely harvested three times, while we were used to harvest five times in the season in the last years. This was the reason why we decided to remove the basil crop from our lands and replace it with a more profitable crop.” Additionally, Ayman Solhy, farmer and owner of four feddans told FAS, “I used to produce an average of 4,750 kg of basil per season from the five periods of harvesting. When I faced the downy mildew three years ago, my average production decreased to 1,600 kg per year. I had no access to finance and was not able to hire enough workers for harvesting, land preparation, and transportation. I decided to remove the basil and replaced it with more profitable crops like wheat.”

On the marketing side, Hassan Thabet, a local trader, who makes a prior agreement with the farmers to buy their basil production in return for providing the farmers with advance payments, fertilizers, seeds and pesticides, advised that for the last two years the demand in the market for basil was weak. This resulted in the low selling price of basil and therefore lower incomes for farmers. “Farmers need to use organic spray in order to enable the export of basil, and we need to explore new market channels for basil,” said Hassan Thabet.

With the support of the FAS project which aims to increase the incomes of small holder farmers, the problem was identified, and the farmers were advised on the appropriate pesticide to face the downy mildew. “We did a lot of research to identify the main cause of the problem facing the basil, asked the herbs and spices experts, surfed the internet about the basil diseases, till we discovered the downy mildew. We provided farmers with the technical support to control the downy mildew, which resulted in raising the basil productivity to reach 700 kg per feddan for the second through the fifth harvests, and increased the harvest times back to five times per season instead of three,” said Engineer Eslam Al Adawy, Technical Advisor in FAS project.

Basil Market Constraints and the Way Forward

To combat this, FAS project interventions have been very instrumental in aiding qualifying farmers to produce high quality basil crops, in accordance with the required specifications of the local and export markets. Engineer Eslam Al-Adawy, FAS technical advisor explained, “We trained the farmers on identifying the targeted pest, the use of organic chemicals, the time of spraying, and the maximum residue levels in order to enable exports of the basil production and to generate higher incomes for farmers. The total production of basil per feddan reached 4700 kilos per feddan in the five rounds of harvest compared to 1600 kilos per feddan, with an average increase in sales of EGP 40,000 compared to EGP 14,400 per season, which resulted in a tremendous increase in the incomes of basil farmers in Assuit.”

Preparation of the dry basil