In a bid to stem corruption in the sale and procurement of wheat, Egyptian authorities have introduced a new series of guidelines for wheat farmers.
This comes after conflicting reports over the actual amount of wheat produced in the country last year.
The Supplies Ministry last June said it had bought a record 5.3 million tons of domestic wheat, up from the around 3.5 million tons from previous years due to a bountiful harvest.
Every year, we used to hand over our harvest without any problems. We used to deliver it to storage facilities who used to pay us upfront and we'd be on our way.
But traders and millers of the crop said they believed some 2 million tons of the 5.3 million tons of wheat were imported or existed only on paper.
To avoid further confusion, the country is seeking to regulate the wheat industry.
Wheat farmers are now required to produce a so-called “card of possession” as proof that they own the land from which they are harvesting.
With the harvest season having kicked in, some local farmers are having a hard time selling off their produce due to the new guidelines.
“Every year, we used to hand over our harvest without any problems. We used to deliver it to storage facilities who used to pay us upfront and we’d be on our way. This year, they’re not taking our harvest, they’re not paying us, and our lives are at a standstill” said Abdel Qader Abdelsalam, a farmer.
“We’re unable to pay our workers their salaries, nor can we pay for the equipment, and our farm land is becoming infertile,” he lamented.
Some of the farmers are working on rented lands, while others simply do not have the required “card of possession” due to it being costly and time consuming to acquire.
There are however other farmers who appear to be in favour of the new guidelines.
“All of us as individuals have a national ID that details who we are and where we’re from. This document (which the new regulations require) is basically a national ID for the land I own. So for example, if I have a plot of land of 10 acres, then the agriculture ministry gives me a document proving that these 10 acres are in my name. This document outlines the area of land from which I can sell wheat” said Ali Hassan, a farmer from the Nile Delta.
Hassan however said some “farmers have harvested wheat and there is nobody they can sell it to because of the arbitrary decisions taken by the government. So now the farmer cannot sell their wheat to traders and cannot sell their wheat unless they have this document. And farmers are too busy with preparing their crop to have time to issue these documents”.
The new rule could mean Egypt will miss its procurement target of 4 million tonnes of wheat and be forced to import at a time the country is already facing a dollar crunch which has hampered its import.