Domestic officials have rejected a recent report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) which expressed concerns over Egypt’s food security as the country continues to grapple with political instability.
“In Egypt, civil unrest and dwindling foreign exchange reserves raise serious food security concerns,” stated theFAO report issued on 10July.
Hisham AbuEl-Dahab, wheat importer and former member ofthe chambers of grain industry, stated that these concerns werebased on announcements made by the formersupply minister, Bassem Ouda, who had stated that the country would start importing wheat within the next two months.
A supply ministry report submitted by Ouda forecasted that in 2013 Egypt would import around 9.4m tonnes of wheat, 7.3m tonnes of coarse grains, and 6.8m tonnes of rice, making the total imports for these products 23.4m tonnes: a 1.3% increase from 2012.
It also stated that in order to meet the growing demand for cereal, a low-income food deficit country like Egypt wouldincrease its imports by approximately5%.
However, a government official denied that there will be any increase, saying “The economic situation will not affect our yearly imports andcereal imports are expected to remain constant.”
“There are no pressures in importing wheat because the global production is in excess this year,” he added.
AbuEl-Dahab explained that pressure is felt when rumours start circulating about a global supply shortage.
“We’ve heard that China, the world’s top wheat grower, will import 10m tonnes this year and if this happens to be true then there will be added pressure on Egypt to import sooner rather than later,” he said.
The ministry report also cited the fuel distribution’s bottlenecks and depreciating exchange rate as the main reason behind the 1.1% increase in the inflation rate of foods and beverages since January.
Ahmed El-Rakaybi, chairman of the Food Industries Holding Company,said: “any depreciation in the value of the Egyptian pound will reflect automatically on the prices of foods and beverage as the value of dollar appreciates and the prices of imported goods surge along with it.”
“The existence of the black market leads to an increase in the transportation costs pushing the inflation rate higher,” he added.
On 18 July,Mohamed Abu Shady, the Minister of Supply, announced in an official statement that Egypt will resume importing wheat to increase its grain stock enough to last until November.