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Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Our wheat imports could hit a nine-year low because of Russia + Ukraine

Egypt’s wheat imports in marketing year (MY) 2022-2023 are expected to drop to their lowest in nine years as the Russia-Ukraine war cuts two of our biggest suppliers off from the export market, the US Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a report (pdf). Wheat imports are expected to drop 8.3% y-o-y to 11 mn metric tonnes in the upcoming MY, which begins in July, according to the report.

In case you needed reminding: The war is “aggravating already unsettled supply chains and causing major disruptions of wheat supplies to import destinations in the Middle East and North Africa region,” FAS said. Egypt has relied heavily on wheat from Black Sea nations, buying around 82% of our wheat over the last five years from Russia and Ukraine, which offer cheaper prices and faster shipping compared to other countries.

The good news: We’re producing more wheat domestically. Total domestic wheat production is expected to hit 9.8 MMT in MY2022-2023, up 8.9% y-o-y, on the back of an increase in the total harvest area. The government has also increased a range of incentives — including raising prices and introducing mandatory quotas — to increase local production this year.

This will allow the government to trim its reliance on imported wheat: The Supply Ministry hopes to purchase between 5 mn and 6 mn tonnes of local wheat in the upcoming season, which begins in April.

And that is allowing us to turn our backs on the international wheat market for the next six weeks, with new tenders on hold until at least mid-May. Our last international wheat purchase was in mid-February before the conflict removed Ukrainian and Russian wheat from the market.

But we’re still working on securing our supplies. France said will “stand by Egypt” on wheat and make sure we get what we need if the war in Ukraine drags on, as we reported yesterday, and Supply Minister Ali Moselhy said last week that we’re also in talks with India, Argentina and the United States for more.

An Egyptian delegation set to visit India in the first week of April, Indian government sources told Reuters, adding that Egypt could buy up to 12 mn tonnes of wheat. The delegation from Egypt will reportedly be meeting potential Indian buyers, examining logistical issues, and assessing the quality of Indian wheat, the sources said.

There were talks this week, too: India's Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said yesterday that he met Planning Minister Hala Elsaid in Dubai and discussed New Delhi's "readiness to supply high-quality wheat" to Cairo.

India is the world’s second-largest wheat producer, and has become a key supplier to countries hit by the fallout from the Ukraine war. India could potentially ship 12 mn tons in 2022-2023, up from 8.5 mn tons last year, helping to ease the pressure on global supply and lower prices which has recently surged to record highs, Bloomberg reports.

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