Egyptian Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed said in a press conference on Thursday that during Egypt’s cabinet meeting, it has been agreed to return to the old policy which allows the international standards up to 0.05% of ergot-infection in imported wheat shipments, as reported by Al-Ahram Agriculture, a state owned newspaper for agriculture news.
Based on that, the government has decided to apply the international standards on all existing and new contracts.
Recently, the international wheat market underwent turmoil due to Fayed’s decision in August, and Egypt was pressured into cancelling three wheat tenders after companies refused to join.
The press release said that the consequences of the ban stopped 540,000 tonnes of wheat from entering Egyptian ports.
Sources said that the American and Russian pressures led to Egypt’s withdrawal from its strict measures (zero ergot policy) especially after Russia’s decision to ban imports of citrus, vegetable and fruits from Egypt as based on principle of reciprocity. In addition, a campaign has been recently launched by the US against importing agriculture products from Egypt, particularly strawberries.
Two days ago, some Egyptian media outlets started to prepare the public opinion to accept this decision after stating that the wheat strategic reserves have declined and might result in an inability to meet the demands of the local market in the medium term.
Seven months ago, Al-Ahram Agriculture led an awareness campaign that shed light on the ergot fungus harmful effects on the citizen’s health and the agricultural products especially after adopting the new standards policy last on July 3.
At an earlier time, Dr.Atef Shaheen, a researcher at the agricultural research center, has warned of importing wheat that contains 0.05% of the ergot fungus. He also said that the new policy (zero ergot policy), which was to replace the old policy, was supposed to ensure 0% of the killer fungus.
Moreover, he said that the Egyptian government’s withdrawal from the zero ergot policy will open the way for wheat traders to import infected wheat and it will be difficult to control the ergot percentage present in the wheat anymore especially that Egypt imports wheat in large quantities from abroad.
He also added that the ergot fungus is very harmful to human health and it also causes dangerous diseases to animals. Dr. Shaheen added that the ergot fungus causes serious problems as blood poisoning, paralyzing and weak blood pressure that would lead to hands and legs gangrene.
A week ago, Russia said it will temporarily suspend imports of fruit and vegetables from Egypt from September 22. A trade dispute between Russia and Egypt escalated after Egyptian quarantine inspectors rejected a 60,000-tonne Russian wheat shipment due to problems related to Cairo’s policy over the ergot fungus.
In the same context, US restrictions on imported agricultural products from Egypt started when imported strawberries from Egypt were the source of hepatitis A that has sickened 89 people in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).