Shipping data showed that Egyptian imports of Russian wheat increased 84% from March to May compared to the same period last year, although traders said there are complications related to payment and shipping processes.
Egypt, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, has become heavily dependent on Russian and Ukrainian wheat in recent years.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has set in Egyptian imports of wheat doubt, part of which goes to government-subsidized bread.
Shipping data showed that March to May of quest’year, when imports from Ukraine stopped, Egypt imported 1,056 million tons of wheat from Russia, compared to 573,213 tons in the same period in 2021.
In the period from January to May, total imports of wheat from Egypt fell by 24% year-on-year to 3.3 million tons and those from Russia by 30% to 1.66 million tons. But grain imports from Russia still make up over 50% of total imports.
The private sector and the General Authority for Matters primethe state buyer of grain in Egypt, questyear are trying to diversify the origins of wheat as prices rise, as most imports of Russian wheat come from the private sector, as retailers say it is cheaper than French, German and Lithuanian wheat.
Russia faces Ukrainian accusations, denied by Moscow, of stealing Ukrainian wheat. Ukraine thanked Egypt in May for returning a shipment that Kiev said was stolen and Cairo said it lacked proper documents.
Egyptian banks refused to facilitate payments to Russian entities due to Western sanctions, but three retailers said importers made purchases through suppliers in third countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.
One such retailer said banks still require additional paperwork if the shipment is Russian.
A trader said: “Egypt’s destination is still the (lowest) price. They look at it (grain purchases) from an economic point of view. Nobody cares about political issues.”
The Supply Commodities Authority continues to buy Russian wheat, but at the end of this month’s fiscal year it faced difficulties finding shipping offers to transport it, four retailers told Reuters.
The Egyptian national shipping company usually offers offers to ship Russian wheat, but did not do so in the authority’s latest practice, which asked suppliers to do the shipping process instead of the company.
Last month, Egypt decided to buy grain shipped from another Russian port, which is Kavkaz, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Dealers said Supply Commodities Authority suppliers had not previously used the port due to logistical issues, explaining that approval of shipments from Kafkaz could mean more competitive freight offers.
They said the Supply Commodities Authority has not yet informed them of the decision to approve the shipment of grain from the new port.
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