Egypt’s strategic wheat reserves have been boosted following a string of large purchase tenders, after a reduced local harvest this year, according to the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade.
Ali Al-Miselhi, Egypt's minister of supply, announced that at the end of the local wheat supply season, wheat reserves could now last six months, thanks to an increase in imports.
“Total local supply amounted to 3.75m tonnes this season compared with about 5.2m tonnes last season,” he said.
“Our bread consumption is one of the highest in the world so we have had to increase imports to meet our needs.”
Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat and consumes around 15m tonnes of wheat annually. This is mostly used to supply its substantial subsidised bread programme, relied on by tens of millions of Egyptians, according to the US Department of Agriculture's Cairo office.
Egypt has been buying up wheat on international markets, with state grain buyer General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) purchasing 1.25m tonnes in July.
The purchase included five shipments of Russian grain, one shipment of Romanian grain and one shipment of Ukrainian grain.
In contrast, GASC bought just 300,000 tonnes via two tenders in July 2016, according to government figures.
The Ministry said they would continue to import more wheat in the coming months.
Mamdouh Ramadan, supply and local trade ministry spokesman, told Reuters that wheat imports for the 2016/2017 fiscal year increased to 5.6m tonnes, compared to 4.5m tonnes purchased the year before.
In April, Al-Miselhi said the international wheat tenders were put out as result of an increased demand for state-subsidised bread.
“We have a local supply deficit and GASC’s monthly consumption of wheat for the bread subsidy program is around 800,000 tonnes a month,” he said.
“Consumption has risen by 2.2% because of population growth and the presence of some 5m refugees from nearby countries.”
This year the country scrapped a subsidy programme to curtail widespread fraud, which inflated local procurement figures last year.
A government-led inspection of wheat silos after an unusually high procurement figure found that more than 2m of the 5.6m tonnes of wheat bought by the government last year might have existed only on paper, according to Reuters.