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Egypt Eyes Long-Term Wheat Deal

CAIRO — Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, is studying the possibility of signing a long-term Russian wheat import agreement and wants to attract more Russian investments to build silos, its Trade Ministry said Monday.

Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid will meet his Russian counterpart, Viktor Khristenko, on Wednesday, when he will also discuss a free trade agreement between the countries, a ministry statement said.

Rachid will discuss “the possibility of signing a long-term agreement to import Russian wheat of high quality with favorable conditions,” the ministry said, without elaborating.

Egypt has bought 3.61 million tons of wheat since the start of the 2009-10 fiscal year on July 1, half of which was from Russia.

The country’s state wheat buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities, said Sunday that all Russian wheat shipments entering Egypt in the last two months were accompanied by quality certificates issued by the Russian Agriculture Ministry and were approved by the local agriculture and health ministries.

Quarantine officials had stepped up wheat inspections since June, after a dispute erupted with local wheat importing company Egyptian Traders over the quality of two Russian cargoes and the authenticity of an import document.

The controversy led to the re-export of two Russian wheat shipments.

GASC also tightened the terms it applies to international tenders this year after the incident.

The new terms include a requirement to load only 60,000-metric ton shipments to Egypt at a single port.

That stipulation has turned out to be a major drawback for French exporters, since it rules out France’s leading grains port of Rouen, which is too shallow to fully load such volumes.

French wheat accounted for 34 percent of Egypt’s wheat imports since July 1.

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