Egypt wants to maintain imports of wheat from a diversified range of origins, the trade minister said on Sunday, after Egypt tightened terms for tenders that some suppliers said would add complications and costs.
Since the start of the current financial year in July 2009, Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, has purchased 5.53 million tons of US, French, Russian, German, Kazakh and Canadian wheat at international tenders.
Recent tenders issued by Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) have included tighter requirements that some European suppliers said would complicate procedures and add costs even though they said changes were not major.
"We will continue to have diversification of our suppliers and we will continue to improve the specification but we are very keen to simplify it also," Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid told Reuters on the sidelines of a trade conference.
Asked for details about any changes, Rachid said: "I don’t have anything to disclose now."
Egypt’s international tenders have been a major issue for the global wheat trade since last year as state wheat buyer GASC tightened terms it applies following controversy over the quality of cargoes of Russian wheat.
European traders said the new terms included tighter phytosanitary requirements and faster loading. A 46-page document obtained by Reuters in Moscow showed changes were mostly technical.
Changes made in 2009 included requirements like demanding cargoes be loaded at one port only and with bug damage limited to 1 percent, compared to 2 percent previously.
Asked about how much wheat Egypt expected to import this year, the minister said, "We usually buy somewhere around 6 million tons from the outside world and that’s our yearly consumption but that very much depends on our local produce also."
In the previous fiscal year, GASC bought at least 5.07 million tons of imported wheat.