Wheat imports see
24 percent increase
Smuggling, subsidies, lower
prices behind sudden surge
Wheat imports increased to nearly 334,000 tons in the first six months of this year from around 268,600 tons in the same period of 2019. The Ministry of Economy and Trade said that 35,000 tons of flour is consumed monthly.
Wheat imports are subsidized (85 percent of their cost) by the government at the official exchange rate (LL1,507.5). Historically, wheat imports used to be subsidized by covering the difference between the international selling price and the buying price of local millers and bakeries, when international prices exceeded $290 per ton.
Geryes Berberi Director General of the Directorate General of Cereals and Beetroot (DGCB) said that that mill owners import wheat directly. He said that the government has started to monitor the delivery of wheat flour. “It is flour rather than wheat that gets smuggled out of the country,” he said. Berberi said that wheat importers increased the imported quantities when wheat prices dropped in the first half of 2020. Wheat prices went down between May and June 2020. He said the imported quantity may even out for full-year 2020.
Arslan Sinno, Chairman of the Syndicate of Agri-food Traders, said that the increase in wheat imports was driven by a rise in consumption of bakery products because subsidies covered, in addition to bread, other bakery products like manakish, croissants, cakes, Arabic sweets, and similar wheat-based edibles.
Date Posted: Sep 30, 2020