Egypt wheat buying normal, has 6-month supply
Cairo, January 26, 2011
Egypt, the world's biggest wheat importer, has secured enough wheat supplies to last six months and is pursuing its purchases as normal, the main government wheat buyer told Reuters on Wednesday.
Egypt has contracted for wheat supplies that would secure it for six months, Nomani Nomani, vice chairman of the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), said.
"Further contracts will just be to secure strategic supplies," Nomani added.
Traders are watching Middle East importers, particularly countries like Egypt, to see if they step up wheat purchases to secure supplies after protests over food prices in Tunisia toppled the Tunisian president.
Some 20,000 demonstrators in Egypt, complaining of poverty, corruption and repression, and inspired by Tunisia's events, turned out on Tuesday to demand President Hosni Mubarak step down. Soaring food prices were among their grievances.
Officials say Egypt will not face a rerun of the violent 2008 riots over price hikes and subsidised bread shortages because about 80 per cent of its population falls under its food subsidy programme.
Egypt imports about half the food eaten by its 79 million people and is struggling with double-digit food inflation.
Egypt's trade minister said earlier this month that Egypt had adequate wheat stocks and had not changed the pace at which it was buying the grain.
Other Arab states have responded to the political upheaval in Tunisia by taking steps to protect their populations further from global price rises including tax and import duty cuts.
Algeria's prime minister issued on Wednesday issued an urgent instruction to the state grain agency to speed up imports of soft and durum wheat. Grain analysts say part of the reason is to build up stocks to guard against unrest.
Egypt's GASC, since the start of the 2010/11 fiscal year on July 1, has purchased about 4.465 million tonnes of French, US, Canadian, Australian and Argentine wheat.
In the fiscal year to last June 30, it purchased some 5.53 million tonnes of US, French, Russian, German, Kazakh and Canadian wheat at international tenders. – Reuters