Egypt’s wheat imports will no longer contain more than 13 percent moisture, supply ministry spokesperson Mahmoud Diab told Ahram Online on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a decision by the Egyptian authorities to import wheat with less than 13 percent moisture would exclude France’s wheat which on average contains 13.5 percent moisture.
“We do not deal with governments and states. We buy from dealers in international markets depending on the best prices and on our quality standards,” said Diab.
Moist wheat is not suitable for Egyptian bread because solid wheat is required, added Diab.
Earlier this week, the government, represented by the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), bought 240,000 tonnes of wheat from Russia and the United States at a price of LE2,096 per tonne ($301) through global tenders.
The current wheat stock will be sufficient until mid-May 2014, said Diab.
In November, the Egyptian agriculture minister told Reuters that the state could achieve self-sufficiency in wheat for its bread subsidy programme by 2019 if silo storage capacity is raised by one million tonnes annually
Egypt's current silo storage capacity is 1.5 million tonnes but the United Arab Emirates pledged part of its LE34 billion ($4.9 billion) aid package to Egypt to build 25 new wheat silos, each with a capacity of 60,000 tonnes. This would bring the country's storage capacity to 3 million tonnes by mid-2014.
“GASC currently consumes nine million tonnes annually to provide subsidised bread, of which 3.6 million tonnes are supplied by local farmers while the remaining 5.4 million tonnes are imported.”
Local wheat, which is grown on 38 percent of arable land in Egypt, is sold by farmers to both the private sector and GASC, said Diab.
“We encourage farmers to grow wheat. Last harvest, we bought from farmers at a higher price than this week’s global tender,” added Diab.
GASC bought wheat from local farmers at a price of LE3150 per tonne ($452 per ton) during the April to July 2013 harvest.