Insurance costs rise for exporters to Egypt and other Arab nations

Companies are likely to have to pay more to obtain credit insurance for exports to Arab world after recent turmoil

Navigating the Suez: companies wanting to start exporting to north African countries will have to pay more as the risk rises in the region.
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The cost of insuring exports to Egypt and several other Arab countries is expected to rise by up to 20 per cent as local traders feel the financial cost of turmoil in the region.

Companies wanting to start exporting to Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya will have to pay more as the risk rises in key regional export markets, according to the Export Credit Insurance Company of the Emirates (ECIE), the export credit agency based in the UAE.

It intends to raise premiums for new exporters to those countries by 15 to 20 per cent.

"We don't see things getting worse in the region but if we are to cover for new exporters, the premiums will be higher," said Schuyler D'Souza, the company's chief commercial officer.

The ECIE decided early this month to temporarily stop insuring new shipments to Egypt with existing exporters.

That decision will be reviewed over the next month, said Mr D'Souza.

The ECIE markets in Egypt and Tunisia have grown by about 35 per cent over the past 18 months to between about Dh40 million (US$10.8m) and Dh50m.

Manufacturers of food, chemicals and plastics are among the UAE companies that have established a presence in Egypt.

The ECIE, which is based in Dubai, is hopeful all outstanding non-payments by creditors in the north African country will be resolved within the next month or so, Mr D'Souza said.

It is still uncertain what the effect of the recent turmoil will be on Egypt's trade.

The Suez Canal and the nation's ports have been working as normal despite unrest elsewhere.

But Samiha Fawzi Ibrahim, Egypt's trade and industry minister, said the country's exports last month fell 6 per cent compared with December.

The UAE is one of the largest exporters to Egypt in the Arab world. Plastic sheets, gold, machinery and electronics are the major non-oil exports to Egypt.

Gold, cables and fruit and vegetables are among goods heading in the other direction.

Exports to Egypt from Dubai, which account for the bulk of the country's non-oil trade, rose 35 per cent to Dh3.43 billion in the first nine months of last year compared with the year-earlier period, according to figures from Dubai Customs.

Egyptian imports to Dubai increased by about 4 per cent to Dh1.31bn over the same period.

There would be a slight short-term drop in trade between the two, said Dr Ashraf Mahate, the head of market intelligence at Dubai's Export Development Corporation.

"Exports will be impacted as industry has not been at full capacity for the last two weeks but that drop will be recouped later in the year," he said. Saudi Arabia's trade with Egypt has also been hit.

Banque Saudi Fransi calculates that each day of unrest has cut about 1 percentage point from Egyptian annual imports and exports. Resuming imports of food items is likely to be a priority for the transitional government.