Minister: Egypt to get help from US, European wheat exporters

Egypt will receive payment facilities from American and European suppliers of wheat, an Egyptian newspaper on Saturday quoted Supply Minister Bassem Ouda as saying, as the world's biggest wheat importer struggles to pay for imports.

Two years of turmoil since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak has badly hit an economy starved of tourism revenues and with a depreciating currency.

"American and European exporters of wheat will provide payment facilities to Egypt to import wheat during a period of up to nine months," Ouda told privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper.

He did not say whether Egypt would be given a full nine-month window to pay or whether payments would be divided over nine months.

A ministry official who asked not to be named said on Saturday the minister did not want to reveal the details of the deal "to protect the interests of Egypt".

He said Egypt also wanted to reach agreements with non-US or European suppliers. Russia is also a major supplier.

"All exporters are welcome to present their views to the ministry with the facilities they would like to give to us to import wheat from them," he said.

Egypt subsidizes bread for its 84 million people. Bakers have threatened a strike, seeking overdue subsidy payments they put at nearly US$60 million.

A Cabinet report on Wednesday showed the country now holds 2.116 million metric tons of grain, enough to last 85 days.

Egypt buys around 10 million metric tons a year, but state purchases since January have fallen to less than a quarter of the volume in the same period last year.

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