Agriculture and supply ministries clash over wheat disribution

Conflicts between the Agriculture Ministry and the Supply Ministry over the provision of Egyptian wheat have escalated, with Supply Ministry officials complaining that expected consignments of wheat have not arrived on time, despite new distribution procedures.

The conflict coincides with the start of Egypt's wheat harvest, highlighted by the gathering in of crops from 1.5-million-acre land reclamation project in the New Valley, with famers nationwide hoping to sell their crops through official channels at government-subsidized prices.

The Supply Ministry says it has not been given 140 stocks of wheat belonging to the Principal Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit (PBDAC), despite the Agriculture Ministry's recent efforts to facilitate the transfer of grain from farms.

The ministry's new systems were intended to help reduce the surplus stocks of wheat, which amount to more than 700,000 tons nationwide.

Sources inside the Agriculture Ministry have accused the Supply Ministry of breaking the law by accepting batches of wheat from private-sector traders in the village of Al-Rabeea in Daqahlia, rather than making use of the official government-subsidized distribution channels.

A report on the situation has been filed, claiming that members of parliament pressured the governor of Daqahlia, Hossam al-Deen Imam, to approve the Supply Ministry’s receipt of the private-sector wheat, a move that opens him up to legal repercussions.

“The supply has only approved 222 locations to receive wheat from farmers, locations that do not meet usual expectations with regards to supplying wheat," reads the report. "The ministry also made it easier for merchants to supply wheat to mills to avoid extra charges that would have otherwise been paid to agricultural associations during the supply process.

"The ministry’s approval only allowed these associations to be a part of the supply process when they could not find a good enough reason to remove them completely. Until now, the ministry is delaying the receipt of wheat from farmers until they have gathered the wheat that they need from other sources,” the report continued.

Dr. Essam Fayed, the minister of agriculture and land reclamation, says that the government is exercising caution with regard to removing the obstacles that farmers face when supplying their crops to collection centers nationwide.

He says that newly implemented mechanisms from the Agriculture Ministry and the efforts of agricultural associations have generally eased the daily collection of crops from farmers and a noted increase has been reported. These efforts have also ensured that farmers are duly paid for their crops, in coordination with the PBDAC.

In a statement, the Agriculture Ministry has said that the PBDAC and Supply Ministry storage facilities have reported that about 1.16 million tons of wheat have been received from the harvest so far, and the flow is increasing daily.

According to the statement, not all areas have brought in their harvests yet, but crops are brought to distribution centers immediately they are gathered.

The ministry has implored farmers to head to government-run collection centers nationwide and not to sell their crops to independent merchants. Farmers are reminded that they should take advantage the subsidies provided by the government.

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