Grain imports into Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat buyer, may rise 12 percent in the current season as the government aims to expand stockpiles, the United Nations said.
Total imports of grain may be about 14.9 million metric tons in the 2013-14 marketing year begun July 1, the UN’s Rome-based Food & Agriculture Organization said in a country report posted online today. That still would be 7 percent less than the prior five-year average. The FAO didn’t say how much of the total would be wheat.
Egypt, which has faced declining international currency reserves amid political unrest, aims to increase domestic wheat stockpiles to 5 million to 6.5 million tons by the end of June, according to the report. The government uses the grain to make subsidized bread. Twenty-five percent of Egyptians lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to state figures.
“Of particular concern remains the ability to import wheat and fuel, and the availability and prices of fertilizer,” the FAO said. “The deficit of petroleum products, especially diesel, is likely to have a negative impact on harvesting and could hamper moving crops to urban centers.”
Egypt’s domestic harvest has been forecast by the government to reach 9.4 million tons, the highest on record. While some analysts “remain cautious about the final outcome” of this year’s crop, production still will probably exceed the five-year average, the FAO said.
Egypt’s state-run wheat buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities, buys domestic and foreign supplies for the subsidized bread program. Purchases from local farmers came to 3.7 million tons by late July, down about 40,000 tons from a year earlier, the FAO said. Egyptian wheat inventories may last for the rest of this year after GASC purchased 780,000 tons from suppliers in Romania, Russia and Ukraine between July 18 and Aug. 12, it said.
While imported wheat is mixed with local supplies to increase gluten content, millers reported “being advised to reduce the amount of international wheat in flour,” according to the UN agency.
Food and beverage price inflation reached 13.86 percent in July as costs rose more in urban areas than in rural regions, the report showed.
“The government’s expenditure on the bread-subsidy program and concerns over its sustainability, together with the budgetary implications, have provoked heated discussions in the country,” the FAO said.
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