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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Russia and Egypt best of friends again

RUSSIA LIFTS BAN ON EGYPTIAN agriculture products: Russia’s agricultural safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has lifted its ban on the import of Egyptian plant products, according to Sputnik. The measure was in place for less than a week. “The sides agreed to resume the deliveries of agricultural produce from Egypt to Russia, except potatoes, on condition that the Egyptian side will meet all Russian demands on sanitary safety of supplied produce," Rosselkhoznadzor spokeswoman Yulia Melano told reporters in Moscow. Al Mal quotes Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil as suggesting the reversal came in no small measure thanks to joint work between the ministries of trade agriculture, which sent a joint delegation to Russia on Sunday to discuss the ban.

Officials from both the agriculture and trade ministries are claiming that the ban and its lifting are unrelated to ergot and are framing the whole issue as a quality control problem. Traders including Hesham El Naggar, vice chairman of commodities outfit Daltex, maintain it was always about ergot. As we’ve previously noted, import bans are standard Russian tactics in trade disputes, and this one was slapped on after Egypt rejected one or more cargoes of Russian wheat. A Russian delegation will arrive in Egypt next month to coordinate on procedures for restoring exports of plant products to Russia, said the head of the Agriculture Export Council Abdel Hamid El Demerdash, Youm7 reports.

Will Russia officially announce the resumption of flights today? Expectations are running high, with Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov expected to detail the significant progress made in talks to restore flights from Russia in a joint press conference today with Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy, Al Borsa reports. Fathy had announced that the two sides had reached an agreement to resume flights “gradually” starting from October. These will be primarily run through EgyptAir and Russia’s Aeroflot and would reportedly begin with a Moscow-Cairo route. Flights to Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada would follow. Sokolov arrived in Cairo yesterday to finalize the agreement.

And not a moment too soon: Tourist arrivals to Egypt were down 51.2% year-on-year during 1H2016 to 2.3 mn, in part due to a 54.9% y-o-y fall in the number of Russian tourists, according to Al Shorouk, which cited a CAPMAS report. The paper also reports a 14.9% y-o-y decline in tourist arrivals from the UK, and a 6.9% y-o-y drop in German tourists.

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