EGYPT – Egypt’s wheat reserves are sufficient to last for five months, the country’s supply minister Mohamed Ali El-Sheikh said on Tuesday.
In statements reported by Al-Ahram Arabic news website, El-Sheikh said that the ministry has imported around 1 million tonnes of wheat, which are expected to arrive in the upcoming weeks.
According to the minister, the large import is part of a plan to increase the country’s reserves of essential food commodities.
El-Sheikh’s statements came during a meeting with the US Wheat Associates’ Regional Director for Middle East and North African Countries Ian Flagg, in which both sides agreed to bolster ties in the fields of wheat and other agricultural imports like soybeans.
Flagg said that the US is keen on strengthening and developing relations with Egypt, adding that the upcoming period would witness a boom in economic relations between the two countries.
He attributed this to the launch of several technical programs that would increase trade—a natural partnership given that the US produces 62 million tonnes of wheat per year while Egypt is the world’s biggest wheat importer.
Cairo announced in early December that its General Authority for Supply Commodities had purchased 360,000 tonnes of Argentinian, Russian, and Romanian wheat through a tender.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Hamed Abdel-Daym told Ahram Online on Tuesday that 3.5 million feddans of land (about 3.6 million acres) would be allocated for growing wheat in 2017-2018, an increase from 3.4 million feddans last year.
Abdel-Daym did not provide estimates of the expected domestic wheat production for the new year, but stressed that 2017 production will be more than last year’s, which he said totaled 9.6 million tonnes.
In June, the Egyptian government said it had purchased five million tons of domestically grown wheat, and paid farmers EGP 4 billion for the mid-April to June harvest season.
The announcement came only months before the country’s prosecutor-general revealed in August a major domestic wheat procurement scandal in which around EGP 533 million allotted for the purchase of 220,000 tonnes of wheat from local farmers had been pocketed by agriculture ministry officials in collusion with silo owners.
Officials claimed at the time that the purchase had gone through.
Then supply minister Khaled Hanafy resigned shortly after the corruption case was exposed, amid criticism from parliament members over his ministry’s handling of wheat procurement.
January 4, 2017; Ahram