Egypt announced the close of its local wheat harvest on Tuesday, having bought 3.4 million tonnes of wheat from farmers, Supply Minister Ali Moselhy said, just short of the government's target of 3.5-4 million.
Egypt, the world's largest importer of wheat, reformed its local procurement process this year to end widespread fraud and smuggling of the grain from abroad that had inflated its collection figures in years past, costing the country millions of dollars.
Grain industry experts and lawmakers who led an investigation into the fraud last year have said upward of 2 million tonnes of Egypt's reported 5 million may have existed only on paper.
Egypt this year scrapped the subsidy it traditionally pays farmers and instead pegged the local buying price to world market prices for the grain, a measure that traders have said removed the incentive for smuggling but left the country with a lower procurement figure.
The government paid farmers 13 billion Egyptian pounds ($716.5 million) in total for their wheat, Moselhy said in a statement. Egypt also purchased 350,000 tonnes of durum wheat from farmers which it will sell to local pasta factories, a supply ministry spokesman said.
That is separate from the 3.4 million tonnes, which, along with its state purchase tenders for imports, supplies a massive subsidised bread programme relied on by tens of millions of Egyptians.
Egypt's wheat harvest typically runs from April through July, but Moselhy said the government will reopen a small number of collection points in six provinces during the first two weeks of July to buy any quantities of wheat that remain.
($1 = 18.1450 Egyptian pounds)