Egypt to Take New Look If Ergot Fungus Poses Risk to Wheat Crop

  • Agriculture Ministry sets up committee to study regulations
  • Nation is world’s largest importer of wheat for bread program

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, will take another look at the risks of the ergot fungus, less than a month after the government said it would accept it in purchases of grain from overseas.

The Agriculture Ministry formed a committee to assess if the fungus in imported wheat poses a threat to the local crop, Minister Essam Fayed said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday. Egypt hasn’t allowed a “single grain of wheat contaminated with ergot” to enter the country, it said.

Egypt got into a standoff with international traders this year after rejecting several cargoes for containing ergot and then issuing conflicting statements on whether it had adopted a zero-tolerance policy for the naturally occurring fungus. The dispute resulted in the state-run General Authority for Supply Commodities getting fewer offers at its tenders and higher prices.

“The committee was formed to study the impact of the ergot fungus on local crops,” Eid Hawash, Agriculture Ministry spokesman, said in a phone interview Sunday. “Until the  committee issues its report, the international standards will continue to be applied.” That means allowing wheat imports to contain up to 0.05 percent ergot.

Egypt, which purchases millions of tons of wheat every year to subsidize bread for its people, will accept cargoes with 0.05 percent ergot, Ibrahim Imbaby, head of the country’s agriculture quarantine office, said July 4, citing a ministerial decree.

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