CAIRO: The Ministry of Agriculture issued a report Tuesday that since 1 January 2014, it received 511,000 tons of wheat so far from local farmers, which is 48 percent more than the amount received in the same period last year, according to Youm7.
Services Sector Head at the Ministry of Agriculture Hamdy al-Assi told Youm7 that the ministry formed a committee and a central operation room to daily monitor the wheat supplement, transportation, and storage.
“Egypt’s current wheat acreage is estimated at 3.4 million acres, compared to 3.1 million acres in 2013,” al-Assis said on ONTV.
The 3.4 million acres of wheat produce 8.5 to 9 million tons of wheat every year, out of which the Ministry of Agriculture receives only 3 to 3.4 million tons, Assi said and that the missing amount of wheat is either sold in the black market, used by the private sector, or decayed due to the deteriorated conditions of the silos.
He said the storage capacity of Egypt’s silos is estimated to hold four million tons of wheat.
“The Ministry of Agriculture raised the wheat’s fixed price it pays for local farmers to 420 EGP per ardeb (150g) with the aim of encouraging farmers to grow wheat and cut the import bill,” Minister of Agriculture Ayman Farid Abu Hadid told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The ministry took measures to boost local procurement and to protect wheat farmers from predatory traders and middlemen, Abu Hadid said.
“The government buys the ardeb of wheat from farmers at a price that is 14 percent higher than what the traders and middlemen offer them for it,” Abu Hadid said.
Wheat traders and middlemen took advantage of the farmers’ worries regarding the cost of transporting their harvest and the wait for hours in long queues to sell them to the Principal Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit (PBDAC), which is the government’s main wheat buyer, he said.
“Farmers usually lose 50 EGP per ardeb as a transportation cost,” Abu Hadid said.
To overcome the problems that hinder Egypt’s wheat productivity, the ministry empowered over 6,300 farmers’ cooperatives across the country to buy their wheat directly besides PBDAC.
Egypt typically buys around 3.6 million tons of wheat a year from local farmers and around 10 million from abroad, making it the world’s largest importer, Abu Hadid said. The government plans to boost the local wheat supplement to 4.2 million tons per year.
“Egyptians consume between 15 and 20 million tons of wheat annually,” Abu Hadid said.
Egypt bought 110,000 tons of wheat from Ukraine and Russian for shipment through June 1-10, according to the General Authority of Supply Commodities’ (GASC) statement.
The country has a strategic stock to last until June, Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafi was quoted by The Cairo Post.