Amwal Alghad English - 2016-01-28 08:41:52
One Egyptian official's tough stance on wheat imports carrying a fungus that wreaked havoc in the Middle Ages is baffling global grain traders and putting a spotlight on policy-making disarray in the world's biggest purchaser of the commodity.
Alarm bells began ringing in Egypt when a 63,000 tonne wheat shipment from France arrived in December.
Traces of the ergot fungus were found, and even though they were within the permissible limits stipulated by the country's main state wheat buyer, the agriculture ministry warned that any level of the common fungus would be flatly rejected.
Since then, Egyptian authorities have sent mixed messages about their policy on the fungus.
The ministry of supply and the main state buyer, The General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), maintain that imports of wheat may contain up to a 0.05 percent level of ergot, a common international standard, while the agriculture ministry insists on a new zero tolerance approach.
The leader of the anti-ergot stance is Saad Moussa, head of the central administration of the agriculture quarantine authority. He has warned even the most minute quantities of ergot are unacceptable.
Traders eager to capitalise on Egypt's lucrative market are shaking their heads over the dispute that has paralysed decision-making among officials charged with ensuring the smooth supply of a strategic commodity vital for feeding millions.
So far, Egyptians appear insulated by the ergot tug of war. Egypt says it has enough strategic wheat supplies to last until May 11. But any hint of disruption is cause for concern.
"The problem is not that easy and I don't think the agriculture ministry will have the upper hand because it's a crucial issue," said Hesham Soliman, president of Med Star For Trading.
The ergot saga has already prompted him to postpone his own 25,000 tonne shipment. More»