Supply and Internal Trade Minister Mohamed Abou- Shadi. (Photo: Al-Ahram Weekly)
Supermarkets and grocers will soon be allowed to sell subsidised products like cooking oil and rice, Supply Minister Mohamed Abou-Shadi told Ahram Online
"The experiment will be trialled in one governorate before it is rolled out across the country," he said.
There will be an extended range of subsidised products available, he added.
Egypt provides a limited amount of subsidised rice, sugar, cooking oil and tea. According to the 2013/14 budget, 17.6 million ration cards have been issued, benefiting 66.6 million people.
To avoid cooking gas shortages this winter, Abou-Shadi said the government had made a schedule of storms that close ports and delay butane gas shipments.
"Egypt is exposed to five storms a year which last five to six days each. We will try to stock up on gas in advance of these storms," the minister said.
Food subsidies, excluding bread, are expected to cost the country LE11.4 billion ($1.6 billion according to the current exchange rate) this year.
In 2006, the government announced its intention to replace the food subsidy system with cash grant subsidies to the poorest people. However, the number of people receiving subsidised food increased after the world financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
When the subsidy change was first proposed, it was heavily criticised by many who feared it would be a first step towards ending or severely reducing subsidies.
Butane gas subsidies are expected to cost LE22.8 billion in 2013/14. They represent 23 percent of total energy subsidies.