Workers at state-run sugar factories gathered at the Press Syndicate on Monday to demand regulations on sugar imports to allow honest competition.
Mostafa Shams Al-Din from a state-run sugar company said that the workers’ grievances started during former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s tenure, when the worldwide price of sugar fell and fees on importing sugar were lifted. “They flooded the market with sugar and started to compete with the local industry,” he said.
Shams Al-Din said that over 500,000 tonnes of sugar were imported between July and October, while there are four state-run sugar companies that have over 500,000 tonnes of sugar in stockpile. “There are no salaries. There are farmers who are waiting to sell their beet at the start of the season… There is EGP 3 billion worth of stockpiles of sugar.”
Abdel-Hameed Youssef, an accountant in the state company Al-Delta, says that hundreds of thousands of farmers want to sell their beet crops to the companies. “The imported sugar is being sold for EGP 5.5 but the state-run companies produce it at EGP 3.75,” he added.
Abdel-Fattah Nour Al-Din, one of the protesters from the Dakahliya sugar company, said “the consumer doesn’t benefit, the only person who benefits is the importer. The product isn’t better, the farmer isn’t better off and the consumer isn’t either.”
Nour Al-Din holds Prime Minister Hisham Qandil responsible and says that the workers will file a complaint to the prosecutor general against several officials. He says that his company held a protest last month and handed in their demands to the Cabinet, but there was no response. He says that during last month’s protest, the officials of Al-Delta, Fayoum and Noubariya companies did not allow their workers to join the Dakahliya protest.
Shams Al-Din said that there has to be regulations on imports. He added that the fees the importers had to pay previously have to be reinstated. “Otherwise the local sugar industry will collapse,” he said.
“Our demands are not categorical,” the protesters could be heard chanting. The protesters say that Qandil was set to meet with the officials at the companies for a month, but the meeting was postponed several times and hasn’t happened yet.