ُEgypt has decided to halt wheat imports if shipments contains any percentage of the ergot fungus, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday.
Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed issued a decision on Sunday that reverses an earlier decision to accept a 0.05 percent of the fungus, the internationally respected limit, in its grain imports, the ministry said in an emailed statement.
Upon the new decision, Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, will have a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of the fungus in its imported wheat.
In February, there was confusio between the state’s grain buyer GASC and the agricultural authorities over levels of the fungus, which caused weariness among suppliers and drove some of them to boycott tenders.
Wheat imports for the 2015/16 marketing year are estimated at 11 million tonnes, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed in October 2015, "about the same as the previous year and the average for the last five years."
In June, the supply ministry said that the government had purchased up to five million tons of local wheat and paid farmers EGP 14 billion (roughly $1.6 billion) for the harvest season, which started in mid-April.
Earlier this month, the Egyptian office of the prosecutor-general stated that its ongoing investigation into alleged corruption surrounding local wheat procurement revealed that some EGP 533 million ($60 million) had been stolen by officials within the agriculture ministry in collusion with silo owners.
The prosecution said that officials took government money earmarked to buy 222,000 tons of wheat from local farmers and pocketed the cash while claiming that the purchases were made.