Egypt Tightens Wheat-Import Rules With Ban on Some Unloadings

  • Cargoes now need final quarantine inspection to be discharged
  • New rules may increase costs of shipping wheat to Egypt

Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat buyer, tightened restrictions on imports with a new rule preventing some grain vessels from unloading until they pass final inspection.

The decision was made by Egypt’s quarantine agency in an Aug. 8 letter distributed to traders, which was obtained by Bloomberg. Previously, ships that were being reviewed by authorities could discharge the cargo into bonded warehouses before receiving final approval by quarantine officials.

The new rules may raise costs for shippers, who will have to keep the ship at port while waiting for grain approval. Vessels can be held at port for a number of reasons, including concerns about the quality of the grain cargo. Earlier this year, Egypt rejected several wheat shipments for having too much ergot, a naturally occurring fungus. Confusion over Egypt’s ergot standards led traders to withdraw from the country’s grain tenders or charge higher prices.

Ibrahim Imbaby, head of the agriculture quarantine office, and Eid Hawash, spokesman for the agriculture ministry, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

The change comes as a Russian wheat cargo from Medsofts, a trader partly owned by Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., waits for a final decision on whether it can unload, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because they’re not allowed to speak to media.

Dorothea Oldendorff

The Dorothea Oldendorff has been at the Damietta port area since July 22 and its draft has moved from 10.5 meters to 8.3 meters, an indication that the cargo has not been fully unloaded, according to ship-tracking data on Bloomberg.

In July, Egypt’s quarantine agency toughened the rules for shipments that have any amount of ergot. The vessels must now be unloaded under supervision from the agency, which will include transport in sealed trucks and fumigation, according to a separate letter sent to traders and obtained by Bloomberg.

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