Egypt is the world's biggest wheat buyer. (Photo: Reuters)
Egyptian Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid said on Tuesday that Egypt had adequate wheat stocks and had not changed the pace at which it was buying the grain.
Traders are watching Middle East importers, particularly countries like Egypt, the world's biggest wheat buyer, to see if they step up wheat purchases to secure supplies after protests over food prices in Tunisia toppled the Tunisian president.
Asked if Egypt plans to buy more wheat to avoid any disruption in the market, Rachid told Reuters: "We are moving at the same pace that's already been planned. We have enough stocks."
Since the start of the 2010/11 fiscal year on July 1, Egypt's General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), has purchased about 4.465 million tonnes of French, U.S., Canadian, Australian and Argentine wheat.
In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, GASC purchased some 5.53 million tonnes of U.S., French, Russian, German, Kazakh and Canadian wheat at international tenders.
"We usually target to have stocks for around 4 months," he added.
Rachid told Reuters this week Egypt may spend an extra LE 4.5-7 billion ($776.1 million-$1.21 billion) on food subsidies in 2010/11, up from a previous forecast of LE 2.5-4 billion ($429-686 million), due to rising global prices.
Egypt imports about half the food eaten by its 79 million population and is struggling with double-digit food inflation.
Officials say Egypt will not face a rerun of the 2008 riots over price hikes and subsidised bread shortages, or see violent protests as in Algeria and Tunisia because about 80 per cent of its population falls under its food subsidy programme.
Other Arab states have responded to protests in Tunisia, that led to the toppling of the president, by taking steps to protect their populations further from global price rises including tax and import duty cuts.