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Egypt to Boost Wheat Imports to Avert Unrest, El Attal Says

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat buyer, plans to boost imports this year to build domestic stockpiles and prevent future political unrest fueled by high food prices, the nation’s Agricultural Export Council said.

Overseas purchases may climb to 10.5 million metric tons in the year starting July 1 from 9.8 million tons a year earlier, Hisham El Attal, board member of the council, said in an interview in Singapore today.

El Attal’s import forecast is higher than the 10 million tons estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 12 and may help limit a 14 percent slide in wheat futures this year. December-delivery wheat gained 0.9 percent to $6.7925 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade at 5:41 p.m. Singapore time.

Egypt will take advantage of the slump in prices to rebuild stockpiles and enable the government to supply the market immediately in the case of any unrest, he said.

Protests toppled leaders in the north African nations of Egypt and Tunisia while riots erupted from Bahrain to Morocco this year, in part because of high food costs.

Food-price inflation concerns for policy makers are set to persist even as rice declines and wheat trades below this year’s peak, according to the United Nations, which said that importers are still paying more than a year ago.

Bigger Harvests

Another year of bumper wheat and rice harvests, as well as a continued surplus in corn, is needed to bring stockpiles back to “healthy” levels and reduce inflation concerns, Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, said in an interview in Singapore today.

China, the largest consumer, may also boost purchases of wheat to 1.5 million tons in 2011-2012, from 1.3 million tons a year earlier, as millers seek high-grade variety to blend with local supply, Haiguang Shi, vice president of the Canadian Wheat Board, said at a conference in Singapore today.

-- Editors: Ovais Subhani, Thomas Kutty Abraham

To contact the reporter on this story: Luzi Ann Javier in Singapore at ljavier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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