Egypt's top administrative court permits wheat with trace levels of ergot

Reuters , Sunday 27 May 2018

File Photo: A farmer carries freshly harvested wheat in a field in Qaha, Qalyubiya governorate, northeast of Cairo, Egypt May 5, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s top administrative court has ruled that the country should accept wheat with marginal levels of the common grain fungus ergot, local newspapers said on Sunday, freezing a lower court order to ban the fungus entirely which had vexed traders.

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, baffled grains markets when it began imposing a zero tolerance level on ergot in 2016, prompting suppliers to boycott state tenders until the country re-instated a tolerance of up to 0.05 percent ergot in cargoes, a common international standard.

The total fungus ban was lifted, only for a lower administrative court to reinstate it, citing health concerns.

That ban was never adopted at Egypt’s ports, as the government appealed the decision and said it would continue to permit up to 0.05 percent in cargoes during the appeal process.

Confusion over the ergot policy has at times prompted major international suppliers to shun tenders and add hefty risk premiums to their offers, so any final court ruling could ease traders doing business with the mega grain buyer.

Egypt’s agriculture ministry said earlier this year it would form a committee to revise legislation governing the work of the agricultural quarantine authority, the primary government agency that had pushed for a blanket ergot ban.

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