File Photo: Deputy Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ibrahim Ashmawy. Photo courtesy of American Chamber of Commerce.
Describing these allegations as "completely devoid of truth," Ashmawy clarified the situation in an interview with Sada El-Balad satellite channel, saying that subsidized flour is an optional, not compulsory, alternative to subsidized bread.
“The distribution of flour instead of bread has already been in effect since 2018; it is not an experiment, as is being circulated,” he added, emphasizing that citizens have the option of receiving 150 loaves of bread or 10 kilograms of flour per month.
Citizens of farmlands and suburbs often prefer flour since they own the tools to bake it, as opposed to those who live in cities, Ashmawy explained.
The deputy supply minister rejected any claims that the ministry intends to change the subsidy system, confirming that “the (subsidized) loaf is 90 grams, with 5 dispensed to the citizens on a daily basis,” asserting that this will remain the case and is “non-negotiable.”
Finally, he indicated the government’s commitment to preserving the bread subsidies despite current economic challenges.
Subsidized bread has been a staple of Egypt for decades.
Attempts to raise prices have always met with controversy, provoking nationwide bread riots in 1977. The price has consequently remained unchanged since 1984.
The government deregulated the price of flour and diesel fuel for bakeries as part of its new subsidy programme under President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in 2017.
In August 2021, El-Sisi announced that subsidized bread would increase in price, remarking that under the current subsidy system, “20 loaves of subsidized bread cost the same as one cigarette”.
More recently, the supply ministry announced in January that those not enrolled in the ration card programme will be able to buy subsidized bread through pre-paid cards. Pricing is implemented on a monthly basis per economic conditions, as Egypt has been suffering from a wheat shortage due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
The two countries supplied 80 percent of Egypt's wheat imports before the conflict.