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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Government lodges appeal of administrative court ruling banning ergot in wheat imports

Government lodges appeals administrative court ruling banning ergot in wheat imports: The Egyptian government has filed an appeal against last week’s administrative court ruling that stayed a Cabinet decision to allow wheat shipments containing 0.05% of ergot — the international standard — to enter the country, Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy tells Bloomberg in an interview. “We are the biggest importer of wheat in the world and must be in line with international standards,” the minister said. “We respect the administrative court, but this ruling will not change in any way our working mechanism.”

The General Authority for Supply Commodities’ wheat tender last Thursday drew an uncharacteristically low number of bids, as global traders refused to take part due to concerns over the possible return of a zero-tolerance policy for ergot and the general “lack of clarity over grain standards.” Romanian and French wheat shipments containing poppy seeds had also faced trouble entering the country. The court is expected to deliberate on the government’s objection this week, El Moselhy said.

In the meantime, the ministries of supply and agriculture are working to issue a new detailed policy on wheat imports in 7-10 days’ time, he added. “The guidelines will state explicitly who carries out inspections, the method used to take samples and which accredited laboratories can test the samples,” in addition to detailing testing procedures and when and how to involve prosecution. Also under the guidelines, “inspections can potentially be carried out by export authorities in a source country without the need for Egypt to send its own inspectors to check on shipments before they arrive.”

The move may rattle the cage for quarantine inspectors, but El Moselhy said he was not backing down. Grain traders had accused quarantine officers of intentionally blocking the entry of wheat shipments as a way to pressure the government into reinstating a policy that allows them to travel abroad and inspect cargoes before shipment.

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