Bloomberg News

Egypt Seeks End to Foreign Wheat Dependence, Minister Says

April 22, 2013

Egypt is stepping up its wheat production in a bid to stem the country’s dependence on foreign imports, Industry and Trade Minister Hatem Saleh said.

Wheat production is expected to reach 10 million metric tons this year, and within two to three years Egypt will achieve “self-sufficiency,” Saleh said in a press conference in Cairo today which was shown on the state television station. “We will depend more on local production of wheat, and will minimize our dependence on imports.”

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, has cut wheat imports for its subsidized bread program by 35 percent to 3.4 million tons in the 12 months ending in June as the government struggles to raise funds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service estimates. Total imports, including by the private sector, are seen at 8 million tons, down 33 percent from 2011-12, according to the USDA.

The country wants to be a strategic base for the storage of Russian wheat either for Egypt or neighboring countries, Saleh said. Both countries have discussed the importance of Russia building grain silos in Alexandria and Safaga, during a recent visit by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, he said.

Egypt has held talks with India, the U.S. and Kazakhstan this year on wheat supplies.

“We expect to start talks on the free-trade agreement with Russia within a few months,” Saleh said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Salma El Wardany in Cairo at selwardany@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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