Flour subsidies at stake as bakers plan mass strike

A meeting Thursday between government officials and bakery owners has temporarily averted a mass strike planned for Friday.

Bakery owners postponed the strike to next Monday after meeting with Supply Minister Bassem Kamal, head of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce Ahmed al-Wakeel and other officials in an attempt to address their grievances.

State bakeries nationwide are angry over the increasing cost of diesel fuel, unpaid bonuses and plans to lift grain and flour subsidies.

Kamal discussed improving the quality of subsidized bread and the possible liberalization of flour and grain prices in roundtable talks Thursday. The government officials said they would evaluate the costs of producing bread every three months.

In response to the looming strike, Kamal said the ministry's committee for grievances is looking into the matter. He added that bonuses for bakeries that produce quality bread would be paid out in full, as will compensation for diesel fuel price hikes.

The minister said he plans to meet again with members of government's bakeries division by mid-March.

"We are mediating to resolve the problem," asserted Wakeel, adding he was confident the state would resolve the issues to ensure bread production continues as normal.

Kamal said lifting flour and grain subsidies could save the government LE11 billion. Instead, the government would only subsidize the final bread product, which would also curb black market trade of flour and grains, he added.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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