Egyptian supply minister Ali Moselhy said on Tuesday that the ministry has reduced the bread subsidy quota for bakeries in order to trim waste caused by misuse and profiteering by bakery owners.
The Sunday decision by the ministry reduced the amount of state-subsidised bread provided to bakers for holders of old subsidy cards.
The ministry decreased the amount of bread to 500 loaves a day, down from 1,000 to 4,000 allocated for each bakery depending on beneficiaries in the area.
Holders of newer electronic smart cards are not affected by the reduction.
The minister said the decision was to combat "manipulation" of state-subsidised bread by bakers, stressing that the daily quota of five loaves per day for each individual remains untouched.
"[We] will not touch the share of bread for citizens under any circumstances," the minister said, stressing that it is the quota for bakeries, not individuals, that has been reduced.
The minister's remarks, which he made during a press conference late on Tuesday, came as hundreds of Egyptians protested in several cities against the lack of the essential commodity.
The governorates most affected by the decision are Alexandria, Minya, Al-Wadi Al-Gadid, Gharbiya and Fayoum, the minister said.
The minister stressed that the ministry is currently working on upgrading its database and replacing all paper cards with smart cards, which better ensure that subsidised products reach their intended beneficiary.
The minister added that citizens should not be using the old paper cards, which are not registered in the smart card system introduced almost three years ago.