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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Private sector to have minimal role in wheat storage

The private sector will have a limited role in storing the 4 mn tonnes of wheat expected of this season’s harvest, said Supply Minister Mohamed Ali El Sheikh. Private sector storage facilities will be used in places where the government’s capacities have been maxed out, added El Sheikh. The ministry, however, will outsource inspection of silos to companies, in a bid to ensure the fraud perpetrated last year would not happen, he said. The private sector’s alleged involvement was among the most controversial elements of last year’s wheat corruption scandal. The government failed to get phase one of Blumberg Grain’s shouna program up and running in time for the harvest and was forced to then rely on what state investigators said were “unscrupulous” private storage facilities, the operators of which were later investigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Agricultural cooperatives will be used to tally the harvest when the season begins on 1 April, said Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed, adding the scope of their roles has not yet been determined. The government will also set up “independent” collection committees and will outline the roles of different ministries in those committees and the collection process at some later date. Word from the government grapevine, however, is that the Trade and Industry ministry is looking to extricate itself from the whole process, sources tell Al Mal.

Furthermore, the government appears to have kowtowed to demands by MPs and farmers, deciding to pay EGP 750 per ardib — the global market price plus a EGP 50 markup. The price was set at EGP 450 a month ago. These new guidelines will be brought up before Prime Minister Sherif Ismail during this week’s cabinet meeting, said El Sheikh, adding that there may be room to change them.

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