Egypt will approve imported wheat shipments that have passed quality tests in the country of origin, Egyptian Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafy said on Sunday in an attempt to reassure the country's suppliers.
"From now on, any shipment which is approved by technical experts in its port of departure will be approved in Egypt," Hanafy told Ahram Online after a joint press conference with Minister of Agriculture Essam Fayed to clarify Egypt's position regarding the permissible level of ergot fungus in its grain imports.
Officials in Egypt's agriculture ministry had ignited confusion among international suppliers of the world's largest wheat buyer by claiming that Egypt had a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of the fungus in its imported wheat, while the state's grain buyer maintained that it had accepted a 0.05 percent internationally-respected limit.
The contradicting statements came after a 63,000-tonne shipment of French wheat that arrived in December was rejected by ministry of agriculture inspectors upon arrival for containing traces of the fungus.
"Nothing has changed at all, the same rules, the same standards are applied," Hanafy told reporters in response to a question about the confusion surrounding the acceptable level of ergot fungus in wheat shipments.
“The French shipment was exceptional, as inspectors had found a level of ergot exceeding 0.05 percent,” he said. Both ministers declined to specify the exact percentage of ergot discovered in the shipment when asked by reporters.
The confusion has caused weariness among suppliers, who boycotted a wheat purchase tender last Tuesday, and Egypt called off another one last Friday after receiving higher-than-usual prices from the four bidders who participated.
Asked why the shipment received approval in France before being rejected in Egypt, Fayed said that Egypt is "investigating" the matter.
Egypt relies heavily on wheat imports to feed its population of 90 million. Wheat imports for the 2015/16 marketing year are estimated at 11 million tonnes, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) wrote in October 2015, "about the same as the previous year and the average for the last five years."
The rejection of the French shipment will not affect Egypt's wheat reserves, said Hanafy, which are enough to meet the country's needs until mid-May.