Egypt makes largest wheat purchase in 10 years as food insecurity increases

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Thursday, 30 June 2022 13:52

Workers collect wheat at the Benha grain silos, in Al Qalyubia Governorate, Egypt, May 19, 2022. Picture taken May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Egypt has vastly increased its wheat supplies on Wednesday amid a global crisis spurred on by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

According to Bloomberg, the country’s grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), bought 815,000 tonnes of wheat yesterday, taking advantage of a recent price slump.

The purchase is the largest single acquisition of such goods since 2012 and comprised of 350,000 tonnes of French wheat, 240,000 tonnes of Romanian wheat, and 50,000 tonnes of Bulgarian wheat, the GASC said.

Food insecurity

As one of the world’s biggest wheat importers, the country has had to deviate from purchases from the Black Sea as the war continues to disrupt imports, which has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable and poorest of the population in their ability to gain access to safe and affordable food.

Continued insecurity may lead to more social unrest as rising inflation and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound have contributed to growing discontentment in the population.

Russia continues to take Ukraine’s vital trading ports, circumventing the Ukrainian grain trade, which typically brings in $3.11bn a year.

Indeed, Egypt’s most recent purchase also included Russian wheat, which, despite their invasion of Ukraine, has remained the world’s largest wheat exporter, reaching a record high of 42.6 million tonnes in June-July.

In Egypt, many still rely on heavily subsidised bread given to more than 70m people out of a population of 103m. According to Egypt’s official statistics agency, 32.5% of the country lives below the income poverty line. 21.4% of children between 6 and 59 months suffer from chronic malnutrition.

So far this year, Egypt has generated 3.9 million tonnes of wheat in local harvest and will aim to increase its reliance on domestic production as it faces higher import costs.

The news came on the same day as the World Bank announced it was providing Egypt with $500m in development funding to combat food insecurity brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The funds have been primarily allocated to support wheat purchases like this, said Egypt’s international cooperation ministry Rania Al Mashat, allowing them to maintain a stockpile and raise the country’s grain storage capacity.

Keep the trimmings

On Sunday, Egypt’s supply minister Aly Moselhy also stated the country would be buying 180,000 tonnes of wheat from India as it looks for ways to trim imports.

The country is currently researching methods to extract more flour from grain, raising the flour extraction rate from 82% to 87.5%, Moselhy said but will have reserves sufficient for 5.7 months.

India banned global wheat exports in May after the country’s supply was impacted by a scorching heat wave that surged prices internationally.

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