Bread shortage in Egypt could reach crisis level
The bread shortage in Egypt is reportedly reaching crisis proportions as children return to school from summer holidays. Long lines of customers have formed outside bakeries that sell bread at state subsidized prices.
The lack of bread is linked to a national flour shortage caused by a poor wheat harvest this year, exacerbated by production problems at mills and higher international wheat prices, reported AFP.
The Egyptian government has announced plans to reverse the shortage. "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak issued directives to increase daily bread production by 10 percent to attain 210 million loaves per day," said Information Minister Safwat Sherif to reporters.
The Egyptian government spends over $600 million on bread subsidies annually. Egypt’s 66.5 million strong population consumes on average 180 million loaves of bread per day.
The nation’s food subsidy system, which covers flat baladi bread, baladi flour, cooking oil and sugar, acts as a social safety net. Bread and flour prices are subsidized for the entire population, while oil and sugar reductions are available only to the poor through a ration card system.
The system is characterized by many setbacks, including high absolute costs, roughly equaling the nation’s total earnings from tourism and ineffective distribution among the needy, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Due to the state’s explicit mandate to ensure access to basic food supplies for its entire population, locals do not tolerate increases in the price of food staples. Riots were ignited in 1977 after the government attempted to slash bread subsidies, leaving the Egyptian leadership no choice but to adopt a gradual approach to economical reform. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)