In a move aimed at calming fears of a shortage in chicken and eggs due to the lack of feed, the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli issued a statement on Sunday saying that in addition to releasing substantial amounts of soybeans and corn imports stuck in ports, it will coordinate with the Poultry Union on a weekly basis to decide on the volume of feed needed to be released in the market.
The statement came after a meeting headed by Madbouli who said that some LE85 million worth of soybeans and LE40 million in corn had been released.
Tons of feed imports are held in local ports with importers not able to find dollars to obtain the credit needed to pay for the imports.
Feed prices witnessed unprecedented increases in July after the price of a ton jumped to LE12,000 ($614) due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, but fell with the decrease in the price of many food commodities and grains. However, it started to spike again earlier this month to reach LE13,600 ($696).
“The issue of feed held in ports due to limited dollars in Egyptian banks has a direct effect on the increasing cost of poultry products like eggs,” deputy head of the Chamber of Importers Ahmed Etabi said.
The problem also stems from the absence of local alternatives to imported feed. “There are not many home-grown alternatives to cover our local needs as we import almost 80 per cent of our consumption of yellow corn and 80 per cent of wheat,” Etabi said.
Egypt imports feed from the US, Brazil, and Ukraine.
“If banks cannot provide us with the needed dollars, then we want to be allowed to pay for the imports in Egyptian pounds,” Etabi said. “The poultry industry might collapse if the feed is not released,” he added, pointing out that what exacerbates the problem is the possibility of imported feed going bad if it stays in the ports for too long.
Former vice chairman of the Poultry Producers Union Mohamed Al-Shafei told Al-Hekaya (The Story) talk show that the severe shortage in feed is forcing poultry producers and farmers to kill chicks, with around LE340 million worth of corn and soybean accumulated at ports. Videos of chicks being culled by merchants and farmers because of the lack of feed went viral on local social media networks this week.
“Mass chick executions on social media are not true,” Etabi said. “A person raising chicks treats them like his own children and cannot kill them,” he said, adding that a chick costs an average of LE7 to LE8 to raise. “Nobody is killing chicks but some people say they are dying because of the lack of feed.”
The only solution, according to Etabi, is to grow feed in Egypt. “If there is feed, there is a sound poultry industry,” he said.
Abdel-Aziz Al-Sayed, head of the Poultry Division in the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, said all raw materials needed for poultry production, including feed, are facing shortages. “This has resulted in some feed factories unable to work which in turn has made poultry merchants sell mother hens since no one wants to buy chicks and in some cases, cull them.”
Al-Sayed believes that in the short term, produce lying in ports should be released, pointing out that while the government decided to release 60,000 tons of soya beans from ports, merchants need to know where they will be distributed.
He underscored the importance of transparency in distributing feed since some big-name dealers might get most of the feed and store it to hike prices.
“As for the long-term solutions, we should increase agricultural space to plant yellow corn in Egypt to meet our needs,” Al-Sayed said, adding that they need solutions “outside the box” like a commodity exchange.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.