The world’s top wheat importer Egypt has said it is to receive $500mn from the World Bank to alleviate the impact of war between its main suppliers Russia and Ukraine.
“The World Bank financing will support the government’s efforts to meet food needs and enhance resilience to future shocks,” International Co-operation Minister Rania al-Mashat said in a statement.
Egypt’s food security has been under mounting pressure since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February causing massive disruption to exports from Black Sea ports.
Before the invasion, the two countries accounted for 85% of Egypt’s wheat imports.
The new tranche of World Bank financing will go towards “funding wheat purchases” as well as “increasing wheat storage capacities” in anticipation of future crises, the ministry said.
Since the war began, the government has already ramped up wheat purchases from domestic farmers as well as trialling wheat substitutes in a bid to counter the supply shortfall.
On Tuesday, state bakeries in New Valley province in the southwest hailed successful trials of “sweet potato bread”, Egyptian media reported.
The adjusted recipes use sweet potato to supplement wheat in the flour used to make state-subsidised flatbread — an everyday staple for the country’s 103mn people.
Some 71.5mn Egyptians rely on bread subsidies, which account for 57% of the state’s subsidy budget, according to official figures.
Soaring world commodity prices helped to push Egyptian inflation to a three-year high of 15.3% in June, according to official figures.
In late March, the Central Bank of Egypt allowed the Egyptian pound to depreciate against the dollar, causing it to lose around 18% of its value overnight.
Foreign currency reserves fell around $6bn in April and May to stand at $35.5bn, as a result of moves “to calm the markets” as well as “external debt repayments”, the bank said.
To help weather the crisis, Egypt has requested a new loan from the International Monetary Fund, that will add to an already sizeable foreign debt equivalent to almost 90% of GDP. On a visit to Cairo earlier this month, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen pledged “immediate relief of €100mn” to support food security in Egypt.
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