Govt to import Argentinean wheat to offset Russian export ban

Trade and Industry Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid has announced that the government may resume importing wheat from Argentina after several years of importing the commodity from other sources. The move, he explained, was meant to offset the current Russian ban on wheat exports.

“We aim to import six million tons in 2010/2011 to offset the quantities that we had contracted from Russia,” the minister said.

In a related development, a report issued by Bloomberg News Agency stated that Russia had exported 558,000 tons of wheat only two weeks before the announcement of the ban, of which 510,000 tons was delivered to Egypt, the largest importer of Russian wheat.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has said that his government would review its wheat commitments to Egypt next October, once analysis of Russia's current wheat harvest had been completed.

Ukraine, for its part, has also decided to limit its wheat exports this year to 2.5 million tons.

According to Sherif al-Beltagi, head of the Egyptian Agriculture Export Council, the Russian ban has helped drive up wheat prices on global markets. “Egypt was particularly affected by the price hikes, since it represents one of the world's largest wheat importers,” he explained.

“Expanding wheat cultivation requires an enormous amount of irrigation at a time when we're facing problems with our Nile water quotas,” al-Beltagi said. By preventing the smuggling of subsidized flour into the black market, he added, Egypt stood to save some 70 percent of its total wheat imports.

“Consumer habits should also change,” he said. “Egyptian per capita consumption of flour stands at 160 kg a year, compared to 100 kg anywhere else in the world.”

“A prudent policy of wheat consumption would allow our local production to cover up to 70 percent of our domestic needs,” he concluded.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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