Egypt to imprison and fine monopolists of rice, a strategic commodity

Ahram Online , Thursday 17 Nov 2022

Egypt's cabinet issued a decree that will remain in effect for three months penalising vendors who monopolise or stock up on rice with at least one year in prison and hefty fines to prevent any shortages in the strategic commodity in the market.

rice
File Photo: Labourers transplant rice seedlings in a paddy field in the Nile Delta town of Kafr Al-Sheikh, north of Cairo, Egypt (Reuters)

 

The decision was issued after the government had detected practices to stockpile the commodity and refrain from selling it in the market, a cabinet statement said on Wednesday.

According to Egypt's consumer protection act, rice is a strategic commodity and the government is entitled to regulate its trading in the market for a specific period of time.

The cabinet decree obligates rice traders, including producers, suppliers, distributors, and merchants, to notify the directorates affiliated with the supply and internal trade ministry of the types and quantities of rice they have.

The cabinet also set a cap on rice prices to be sold at no more than EGP 18 in the local market.

Violators – defined by the decree as those who stock up on rice and refrain from selling it – will be punished by a jail term of no less than one year and a fine between EGP 100,000 and EGP 1 million.

In cases of repeat violators, the penalty will range between two and five years in prison and double the fine set in the first offence, the cabinet warned.

The decree remains in effect for three months as of Wednesday.

Rice production has always been abundant in Egypt, with the government only buying a portion to be sold at lower prices for ration card holders, Nader Saad, the cabinet spokesman, told the media on Wednesday.

The government, according to Saad, stepped in to prevent monopoly on rice after some consumers found it difficult to buy rice in the market due to attempts by a number of traders to exploit the current global shortage in commodities – despite this year's abundant production -- by stockpiling large quantities of rice, which is a serious breach to fair trading.  

Egypt is set to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production soon, according to recent remarks by Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Moselhi.

The Chamber of Grain Production at the Federation of Egyptian Industries said that 4.5 million tons of rice were harvested in 2021-22, down from six million tons the year before.

The harvest this year should rise to six million tons after expanding the areas slated for rice cultivation, according to the grain chamber.

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