The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade has been able to make some accomplishments over the past period through providing services or decisions that contribute to reducing the burden on citizens through increased subsidies for ration cards.
Individual subsidies on ration cards increased by 138% from EGP 21 to EGP 50 starting in July 2017, based on directives from President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to increase the value of subsidies in the state general budget from EGP 45bn to EGP 85bn.
Al-Sisi’s decision came after the rise in the prices of all commodities and the rise in inflation after the decision to liberalise the exchange rate in November 2016.
Alaa Fahmy, chairperson of the Food Industries Holding Company (FIHC), said that the ministry provides all commodities at consumer outlets (cooperative societies). Fresh meat is offered at EGP 85 per kg and poultry at EGP 29 per kg, which has been reduced for a limited time to EGP 17 per kg. Fish has also been available at prices lower than other markets to meet citizens’ needs.
He pointed out that the coming period will witness developments at consumer outlets to provide better service to citizens and encourage them to buy goods, vegetables, and fruit from FIHC outlets.
Issuing ration cards for social security pensioners
Aly Meselhy, minister of supply and internal trade, made a decision in August to issue new ration cards for specific societal segments.
The decision included issuing new ration cards for those entitled to social security pensions, citizens under the Takaful and Karama programmes, along with patients of chronic diseases, migrant workers, seasonal workers, agricultural workers, peddlers, drivers, workers, craftsmen, low-income citizens, and unemployed citizens, based on social research, with no more than EGP 800 per month, in addition to minors who do not have a fixed income due to the death of parents and employees in the public sector with income lower than EGP 1,500, along with pensioners who receive less than EGP 1,200 per month.
Application of the new bread system
The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade began implementing the new bread system in August 2017, which included the liberalisation of the price of wheat and flour for mill owners and bakeries where the price of wheat for mills was set at EGP 4,000 per tonne, and EGP 4,700 per tonne of flour for bakeries. At the same time, the prices of wheat and flour will be reviewed every three months to ensure that the price of subsidised bread remains at EGP 0.05.
For his part, Mohammed Sweid, spokesperson for the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade, said the aim of the system is to prevent any manipulation by bakery owners with regards to cards, which were previously used in the unethical sale of bread to take advantage of the difference in price between subsidised and unsubsidised bread. But with the implementation of the new system, bakeries now receive subsidies for only what they sell.
He added that prior to the system, mill owners used to obtain the wheat for free to grind, and then sell it to the bakeries. But the new system stipulated the payment of wheat dues first.
The ministry stipulated that bakeries and mills should pay for their wheat and flour needs for three days in advance before the start of the new system. The ministry also set up a “Supreme Committee for Bran” to determine prices according to supply and demand mechanisms.
The per capita subsidised bread per day is five loaves for each citizen, which can be obtained in bread or replaced with other commodities every month under “bread exchange points.”
According to 2017 general budget estimates, the number of beneficiaries of bread subsidies reached about 80 million individuals and the amount of bread allocated for citizens scored 8bn loaves per month.
New service for the issuance of cards through mobiles
The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade started implementing a new service, namely issuing ration cards in place of lost or damaged ones, via mobile phones starting from January 2018, which contributed to improving the system.
The service is activated by sending a blank message to the hotline “91237”, a text message service, for EGP 1, to monitor the correct data registration and reply instantly providing a number to follow up on the request. The card is then issued within two weeks.
Sweid said that the aim of activating the service through mobile phones aims to more easily facilitate the process for citizens and control the system of issuing cards.
He explained that citizens receive the secret number of their own card through a text message via mobiles to prevent tampering, as the operation of this service will eliminate the failure of some employees to hand cards to their owners, and hence manipulation, as was the case before.
Expansion of logistics areas
The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade aims to expand the establishment of trade and logistics areas outside the boundaries of Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria to expand in the governorates of the Upper Egypt and Delta regions in order to increase growth rates in internal trade.
Meselhy stressed in a previous statement that the ministry aims to establish 12 new logistics areas on 20 feddans each to cover 50% of Egypt’s governorates, as well as the establishment of modern central markets on a 19 feddan area each, new trade centres in each governorate, and about 10,000 new commercial chains and hypermarkets, along with new outlets on areas ranging from 300 to 500 sqm.
These standards aim to reform the domestic trade sector in accordance with international standards, including in terms of infrastructure, legislation, or services, and to reflect positively on the Egyptian economy.
The ministry’s Internal Trade Development Authority (ITDA) also launched the first land bid in the current fiscal year for 13 feddans in Menoufiya, based on usufruct rights for investors.
Raising the price of sugarcane supply
Al-Sisi ordered increasing the price of sugarcane at the beginning of the season, which started in January, from EGP 620 per tonne to EGP 720. The sugarcane crop is one of the important strategic crops in Egypt, as about 10m tonnes of it are supplied each year for the production of about 1.1m tonnes of sugar allocated to ration cards.
Mamdouh Ramadan, spokesperson for the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade, said that raising the price of supply will not affect the current ration price of EGP 9.5 per kg.
Ramadan added that the supply of sugarcane for factories is fully operational and will continue until June.
The ministry will also announce the price of supplying wheat for the coming season in March in accordance with international prices.