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Restrictions Temporarily Affecting Wheat Imports


Restrictions Temporarily Affecting Wheat Imports

Our aim as P&I club correspondents is to not only to be of assistance to the club and its members upon arrival to Egyptian ports but to also always keep our clients informed with any updates within or concerning the trade and maritime field.

This is to update our clients, clubs and their members on restrictions imposed by Egyptian Agriculture Ministry to imports of wheat with reference to presence ergot fungus traces.

We have been following up during the last couple of weeks some alarming cases in which imported wheat containing any traces of the ergot fungus will be no longer classified as accepted.

Egypt has tightened restrictions on wheat imports with a new rule preventing some grain vessels from unloading until they pass final inspection.

In a latest decree issued by the minister of agriculture No.1421 on 22/08/2016, it reinstated the zero tolerance policy of wheat ergot in contradiction to the applied international standards of 0.05% tolerance policy and ceased decree No.1117 /2016.

Some opinions believe that this decision was based upon the consumption rate of wheat products. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has previously issued a worldwide survey on the daily consumption rate of wheat products ( 200 grams of wheat) which resulted in their decision of the 0.05% tolerance policy. However based on latest surveys of Egyptian consumption of wheat products, the consumption rate is much higher than the average therefore in fear that the ergot might affect people in a harmful way the said decision was issued.

In an article published in a widely renowned governmental Newspaper on Sunday 28 Aug 2016, under the title:

Egypt’s Agriculture Ministry Reinstates zero Tolerance Policy For Wheat Ergot

What was published in the said newspaper was that Egyptian Authorities have decided to halt wheat imports if shipments contain any percentage of the ergot fungus, as declared by the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture.

The Minister of Agriculture had issued a decision on Sunday that reverses an earlier decision to accept a 0.05 percent of the fungus, the internationally respected limit, in grain imports, the Ministry said in an emailed statement.

By virtue of the new decision, Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, will have a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of the fungus in its imported wheat.

In February, there was confusion between the state’s grain buyer GASC and the agricultural authorities over levels of the fungus, which made suppliers worrisome and drove some of them to boycott tenders.

Wheat imports for the 2015/16 marketing year are estimated at 11 million tons, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed in October 2015, “about the same as the previous year and the average for the last five years.”

According to the new decision taken by the Minister of Agriculture, the 0.05% tolerance is no more applicable. In other words, Egypt will have a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of the fungus in its imported wheat. In other words the 0.05 tolerance is no longer applicable.

Egypt drops zero tolerance ergot policy

The Egyptian Cabinet resolved 21/9/2016 the Egyptian Standard Specifications (2010) shall apply on all wheat shipments (whether these shipments are contracted for or these are new shipments). These standard specifications specify that the tolerated Ergot percentage in the wheat shipments is 0.05%.

The Egyptian Cabinet resolved that the Egyptian General Authority For Supply Commodities (GASC) shall have to enter into a contract with a specialized international company to inspect and receive the imported wheat shipments pursuant to both applicable the Egyptian Standard Specifications and the International Standards applicable in 187 countries pursuant to the FAO and the Codex Alimentarius (“Food Code”) which is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety.

Rumors reveal that this decision came following the reluctance of the foreign suppliers to participate in the tenders held by the Ministry of Trade and Supply, and the Minister of Supply confirmed to the Egyptian Cabinet that the 0% tolerance of Ergot fungus in the imported shipment which had been applied retroactively has resulted in the stoppage of shipping 540 000 tons of wheat from worldwide ports bearing in mind that Egypt imports 11 million tons of wheat out of which 5 million tons are imported by the Egyptian government (mainly through the Egyptian General Authority For Supply Commodities) and the remaining 6 million tons are imported by the Egyptian private sector.

In summary, the 0.05% tolerance has now been reinstated and presumably, a specialized international company shall be inspecting and receiving the imported wheat shipments instead of the tripartite Egyptian health authorities’ committee.