Egypt extends ban on rice exports
Cairo, October 27, 2011
Egypt has extended the ban on rice exports to ensure there is no shortage of supply, Trade Minister Mahmoud Eisa said on Thursday, adding that it was not clear yet when the ban in place since 2008 would be lifted.
The ban has been extended several times and was due for review in October. Analysts said the government was wary of any move that might hurt domestic supply or prices, stoking public frustration after an uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Eisa said during the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit in Cairo that his ministry had been asked to extend the ban by Social Solidarity Minister Gouda Abdel Khaleq, responsible for internal trade, food subsidies and other related issues.
"Banning the export of rice is still there. The minister of social solidarity asked us to continue (the ban) for some time," Eisa said. When asked how long it would last, he said he could not give dates but added: "I don't expect it will be very long."
The US Department of Agriculture attache in Cairo said in August that Egypt was expected to continue the ban beyond October until January or February 2012 "due to the political sensitivity of high prices".
Eisa said rice demand had been high recently because of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that fell in most of August and when the day's fast is often broken with big meals with family and friends. He said demand would also rise during a Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha which falls in November.
"We have a shortage of rice. Rice is a very popular food in Egypt. Bread and rice -- if you have a shortage in these two, you have a problem," the minister said.
Shortages of subsidised bread and surging prices fuelled violent protests in 2008. - Reuters