Rising global wheat prices to cost Egypt EGP 12-15 bln surcharge: Minister

Ahram Online , Sunday 6 Mar 2022

The spike of wheat prices in international markets is expected to increase the cost of the country's imports of such strategic commodity by around EGP 12 to 15 billion surcharge, Egypt's Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait told Bloomberg Asharq on Sunday.

wheat field
File Photo: An Egyptian farmer in a wheat field. AP

Wheat prices on the international market have hit record highs on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Prices have jumped more than 50 percent, rising to $13.40 a bushel on Friday, while European milling wheat in Paris hit a record of €406 per tonne, according to the Financial Times

The war between Russian and Ukraine has also cut global wheat exports. Together, both countries account for about 30 percent of the world’s traded wheat and 20 percent of corn exports.

In addition, global oil prices are trending upwards; they are nearing $120/barrel, increasing from around $100 before the invasion.

Maait said "all [nations] are affected by the rising prices in oil products and basic commodities, especially wheat, and this negatively impacts the states' budgets, including Egypt."

"According to our estimates, there will be an additional burden exceeding EGP 12 billion on the current fiscal year's budget and this could reach EGP 15 billion," he added.

Besides the global wheat prices, the minister said, the actual cost of imports is also linked to other several factors, including the amounts, types of grains and markets.

Egypt – one of the world’s top wheat importers – gets around 80 percent of its wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine together.

The North African country is also setting its eyes on 14 alternative markets recommended by local agricultural bodies – including non-European countries like the US, Argentina, Canada and Paraguay – to meet its grain needs.

Egypt, whose current strategic wheat reserves are sufficient to cover the coming four months, is waiting for the local wheat season that starts in mid-April. This supply is expected to provide an additional five months worth of wheat to its stockpile, which would last the country through November, according to officials' estimates.

The country, whose last year's wheat imports stood at 5.5 million tonnes, on top of 3.5 million tonnes from local farms, is seeking to expand its reliance on local agricultural production and decrease wheat imports in 2022 to 5.3 million tonnes.

Egyptian farmers are expected to produce 5.5 million tonnes of wheat during the coming season – two million tonnes more than they supplied in 2021 – according to Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Mohamed Moselhi.

Egypt is aiming to increase agricultural land nationwide by two million feddans over the next two years.

Recently, the government has increased the price of the wheat it buys from local farmers to encourage them to increase the amount of land planted.

On Thursday, Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly called for following up on local markets periodically amid the current conditions to prevent any price gouging attempts, warning that the government will not allow such practices since the country has already managed to secure a strategic reserve of various types of basic commodities.

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