Juhayna’s total sales of food products last year were around EGP 6.06bn, including EGP 2.9bn worth of dairy products. The company’s exports achieved a staggering 207% growth to EGP 367m, up from EGP 120m in 2016.
Seif Thabet, chief executive officer of Juhayna Food Industries, said the Egyptian economy faced many challenges during the past year. “The economy undoubtedly has the ability to overcome these challenges, recover, and reach the stage of stability,” he stressed.
Thabet noted that the government is undertaking a lot of efforts to achieve stability through economic reform measures taken over the past year.
He stressed that times of crises show many opportunities that can be used to develop sales and achieve good growth rates.
He pointed out that the food and agricultural processing sector is promising and has many opportunities, but still needs the right investment atmosphere, as well as more work and coordination between the government and the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities available in this strategic sector after stabilising the market during the last quarter of last year.
Thabet stressed that the responsibility for achieving sustainable development does not solely rely on the government but is a shared responsibility between the public and private sectors and civil society institutions, in addition to reaching a collective agreement on a strategic and joint vision linking short term plans to long term ones.
He pointed out that the government and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) have taken the first step to develop a strategy to promote inclusive growth and sustainable development, such as the promulgation of the new Investment Law and a wide range of economic reforms.
Thabet described 2018 as the year for the recovery of Egyptian economy. “The market is promising and full of investment opportunities,” he said, calling for continuing the hard work in all sectors, both public and private, to remove the obstacles facing investment and work to resolve tax disputes, in addition to creating the appropriate environment to create channels of communication with small- and medium-sized enterprises.
He stressed that the shortage of foreign currency and the high exchange rate against the Egyptian pound prompted the company to increase exports to provide foreign currency, relying on local suppliers as much as possible to reduce production costs and avoid impacting the quality of products.
He pointed out that the food industry sector does not operate in isolation from the macroeconomy, as it faces the same challenges and sees the same opportunities. It began to recover in the third quarter of 2017, Thabet said, noting that net sales revenues were up by 23%, while interest and financing expenses increased to 34% in the last nine months of last year.
The company achieved sales worth EGP 6.06bn last year, including 49% from the dairy sector, which scored EGP 2.9bn. The yoghurt sector followed second with a total of EGP 1.33bn, then juices with EGP 1.22bn, then concentrates with sales of EGP 363m.
Thabet said that overcoming challenges can be achieved through continuing hard work and seeking to replace imported raw materials with local products in line with the ambitious state plan to support local products and small and medium enterprises, in addition to rationing consumption and increasing the efficiency of operational capacities.
He noted that the economic measures adopted by the government are not “magic words” that will eliminate the challenges once implemented, because of the negative effects that impacted all segments, including the food industry sector, being a vital market that deals directly with consumers. “But the positive impacts of these decisions will be clear on the medium and long term,” he said.
As for the company’s new investments, Thabet said that Juhayna was keen during the period between 2011 and 2016 to invest in various projects. At present, the company focuses on maximising benefit from the investments that have been pumped over the past years to produce products that match international ones.
Thabet also said that the company is focused on raising the efficiency of operations and the development of staff capacity as well as the principles of collective responsibility, noting that the company launched the cheese brand Argo in partnership with Danish company Arla.
Thabet explained that the company’s exports are still in early stages and their share of total sales does not exceed 6%, especially as it is focused on exporting amid the changes in the exchange rate and the low value of the national currency that makes Egyptian products more attractive abroad.
He added that the company aims to enter a number of new markets including Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, and all African countries, and starting with Ethiopia and the Middle East.
He noted that the company is studying the African market carefully to provide the best strategies to enter African markets with products that suit the needs of consumers with a focus on juice products.
In addition, he stressed that the rise of Egyptian exports to African markets during the past year—which amounted to $7.3bn, up by 200% from the year before—is a strong incentive to move ahead with the company’s plans to penetrate those markets.
He pointed out that Juhayna is one of the largest companies operating in the sector, not only at the local level, but at the level of the Arab region.
He added that the company’s dairy sector has been at the forefront for many years, while the company competes strongly in the juice sector through a variety of products that meet the needs of consumers of all segments.
On the Mercosur agreement, Thabet commented that activating the agreement is a good step towards development, opening up new export markets, and contributing to enhancing the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and the countries of the association which include Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
He pointed out that the agreement accounts for 63% of Mercosur exports, which stipulates obtaining an exemption from customs to stimulate exports in the food industry sector and open more markets to Egyptian products.