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Sisi Tells Authorities to Boost Egypt’s Strategic Food Reserves

Sisi Tells Authorities to Boost Egypt’s Strategic Food Reserves

Monday, 30 March, 2020 - 17:15
Two Egyptian women shopping in a supermarket in Cairo, Egypt, December 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has told the relevant authorities to boost strategic reserves of staple goods, a presidency spokesman said on Monday, as global concerns about food security rise amidst the coronavirus crisis.

The country is due to begin harvesting its local wheat crop in April from which the government expects to procure some 3.6 million tons of wheat, supply minister Ali Moselhy said earlier this month, seeking to reaffirm that Egypt is well-stocked.

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, said it had already had enough wheat stocks for 3.5 months of consumption, rice reserves sufficient for 4.6 months and enough vegetable oil reserves to last until October.

The state commodity buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC,) bought 120,000 tons of vegetable oils at its last tender on March 19 and 360,000 tons of Russian and Romanian wheat at its last wheat tender on Feb. 11.

Egypt has not witnessed scenes of mass panic-buying as is prevalent in many European countries, but officials have nonetheless sought to reassure citizens that this behavior was not necessary and that the country is well-stocked.

Millions of Egyptians depend on the government’s subsidy program for access to discounted staple foods such as bread, pasta and cooking oil.

The president also stressed the importance of the role of consumer protection agencies to ensure the flow of staple goods to Egyptians ahead of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin in late April and is a time when consumption normally increases.

Egypt had as of March 29 registered 609 cases of coronavirus, including 40 deaths.

Separately, Egypt’s current account deficit for the last quarter of 2019 narrowed to $3.19 billion from $3.25 billion in the same quarter of 2018, according to central bank data released on Monday.

Remittances from Egyptians working abroad increased to $6.97 billion from $6.14 billion, while tourism revenue climbed to $3.06 billion from $2.59 billion.

Reuters calculated the figures by subtracting third quarter figures released earlier by the central bank from those for the last half of the calendar year.

Tourism had gradually been recovering from political turmoil after the uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in early 2011, enjoying record-high revenue in 2019. The recent figures, however, date to before the global coronavirus outbreak that has since brought tourism in Egypt to a virtual halt.

Suez Canal revenue rose to $3.03 billion during the fourth quarter of 2019 from $2.93 billion a year earlier.

The trade deficit rose to $9.92 billion from $9.44 billion.

Foreign direct investment edged down to $2.61 billion from $2.77 billion, while net portfolio investment surged to $3.51 billion from a negative $3.91 billion in the last quarter of 2018.

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