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Business in Egypt slowly returning to normal

Egyptians walk in a Cairo market on the 10th day of a popular uprising to oust President Hosni Mubark.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: 'People gotta eat' is a pretty solid business model. But in Egypt the past couple of weeks, the business of food has been a little bit different. Grocery stores and their suppliers have been at the mercy of what's been happening out on the streets. None of which is conducive to the bottom line.

The natural foods company Wadi Foods is headquartered in Cairo. They sell Egyptian olive oil, for instance, both at home and elsewhere in the Middle East. Khalil Nasrallah is one of the co-founders. Welcome to the broadcast.

Khalil Nasrallah: Good to be with you.

Ryssdal: I think the most basic question, sir, is how has business been for you these past couple of weeks?

Nasarallah: Well the business was shut down, so this answers your question. Yesterday was the first re-working day, and today was I would say, close to 70 to 80 percent normal.

Ryssdal: What about your clients, your customers, the people to whom you sell your food products and the people you buy from? Have they have been able to have any kind of normal business?

Nasarallah: Most of them are back in business. I wouldn't say to back to almost normal, they're starting to place their orders and we're starting to deliver. But the main one that was hit badly was the hotel business, and we are suffering over there.

Ryssdal: Have you had security concerns about your business? It has been, as we've all seen on television, it's been rough.

Nasarallah: We did face quite a bit of challenges, especially when the police left the streets and a lot of looting happened, and the prisoners were let out of the prisons. And we had to protect our farms and our factories and our offices. This was the biggest challenge we faced.

Ryssdal: Tell me about that: How do you protect your property when things like this happen?

Nasarallah: We were lucky that our employees were at the factory and at the farm at the time, and instead of them doing their daily work, we asked them to help us protect the farm and the factory, which they did amazingly well. We created shifts to man the gates and the fences on a 24-hour basis. And everything went very well actually.

Ryssdal: Is it possible to tell yet how much money you've lost and how much this revolution in the streets is costing you?

Nasarallah: The early estimates that we've run today and yesterday would bring the losses around $200,000. Now we didn't necessarily see the long-term effect of this problem, so it might be more than this.

Ryssdal: Will you change your business strategy at all? I mean, you sell food in the local Egyptian markets, but you export as well, into regional markets in the Middle East, yes?

Nasarallah: Yes, exactly. We do export. And I think to compensate for the losses in the local markets, we will have to export more product. Now it might also beneficial to export these days because the exchange rate is in our favor.

Ryssdal: For all the recent troubles, Egypt has been in most regards, a stable place to business the past number of years now, isn't it?

Nasarallah: Yes. Egypt, for the past two years, has been doing really well when many countries in the world were suffering from the economic meltdown. And we have seen a lot of businesses and factories coming up in this country, a lot of investment in real estate that we have seen over the past two years. And we still expect this to go on, even with the troubles that we've seen.

Ryssdal: If it doesn't recover, Mr. Nasarallah, will you stay, or will you leave?

Nasarallah: I think we have a lot at stake in this country, and we have very firm beliefs that it will recover. But if it becomes impossible to live here, then we have to make a decision. But right now, we are staying put.

Ryssdal: Khalil Nasarallah, talking to us from Cairo. He's the co-founder of Wadi Foods there. Mr. Nasarallah, thank you so much for your time.

Nasarallah: Thank you, thank you very much.

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To Ute Regan: when the police left the streets of Egypt, we were left in total chaos, no phones were working, no internet, thugs and looters everywhere (not demonstrators as you wrongly assumed), prisoners released from jails... our employees were heroic in the way they protected our business showing a sense of ownership that the demonstrators had shown for their country. Can you imagine yourself and your family in this mess, and try to run a business of all things?
Egypt is at last free but the economic situation is the next challenge for all Egyptians and we will be playing our part in putting it back on its feet.
I am not Egyptian but today I wish I was. Egyptians have surprised me and the world with their determination and their love for their nation.

I think that Mr Regan is way out of contest about Mr Nasrallahs comments, remember that any business person in Egypt or any where else in the world would think and do the same to protect their life work and property under the same conditions , nothing against the protesters or their cause, we all respect and support them with what they are fighting for , and i think that Mr Nasrallsh does the same in so many ways , like providing work and income to so many families in Egypt" to say the least",something that you and i could not do, so before digging out the negative in anything you read or see, can you please try to understand other peoples point of view from their side of the fence, that would make life soooo much easier to all of us.

I am appalled by Khalil Nasrallah, co-founder of Wadi Foods defining the courage of so many people in Egypt wanting change ... as a "Problem" ??? In perfect English, Mr. Nasrallah is telling of the problem, that is continuing and if it does not get better .... by golly he might move somewhere else.
I wonder how many of the protesters and young people in Egypt have that option ....
How his people defended his farm from the looters, implying that the demonstrators were the looters.

Could Mr. Khalil Nasrallah, co-founder of Wadi Foods be one of the reasons people want change??!!

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