Ibrahim Imbaby, head of the tobacco division at the Egyptian Federation of Industries, has blamed the shortage in domestic cigarettes on “greedy retailers who store goods, mistakenly believing that prices will be increased in July.”
Imbaby made the comments in statements to MBC satellite TV channel late on Sunday after many Egyptian smokers took to social media to complain about difficulty in find domestic cigarettes in some areas.
In February, tobacco and cigarette prices were increased in Egypt by 50 piasters for each unit on the back of amendments to the VAT law.
Imbaby denied that further increases in prices will take place soon, citing comments by the finance minister that prices would not be increased in July.
Imbaby called on supervisory authorities to take action against retailers who hoard goods in their warehouses.
"Where is the Consumer Protection Agency? Where are the [Ministry of Supply’s] inspectors? If one warehouse is confiscated, all the hoarded cigarette packets will appear [in the market]," he stressed.
Morsy Abou Amer, the spokesman for Egypt’s top cigarette maker Eastern Company, told Ahram Online that the company has its own strategy to meet consumer needs, and that it is committed to supplying cigarettes according to the latest prices determined by the finance ministry.
In 2016, Egypt imposed a valued-added tax (VAT) on non-essential goods, like cigarettes, in the months leading up to its signing of a three-year IMF deal in November of the same year.
According to Imbaby, Egypt collects revenues of up to EGP 65 billion from taxes imposed on tobacco.
Up to 20.2 percent of Egyptians above the age of 15 are smokers, according to 2016 figures from state statistics body CAPMAS.