CAIRO, March 21 Egyptian bakers who have
threatened a strike that could affect the staple diet of the
nation's poor said a meeting they had hoped to hold with the
prime minister on Thursday would not take place until next week.
Abdullah Ghorab, the head of the bakers' association, said
earlier this week he intended to meet Prime Minister Hisham
Kandil on Thursday to discuss their demands, but late in the day
he said the meeting had yet to be arranged.
"We are waiting for the prime minister," he said, adding he
now expected the meeting would be held early next week. There
would be no decision on strike action until then, he added.
Ghorab heads an association representing 25,000
private-sector bakeries, most of which bake loaves that sell for
5 piastres, or less than 1 U.S. cent.
The prospect of a bakers' strike has compounded a sense of
economic crisis in a country where a drop in foreign currency
reserves has already caused fuel shortages and raised the
potential for more social unrest.
The bakers say the government owes them 400 million Egyptian
pounds ($59 million) in incentives they are due for producing
state-subsidised bread for the poor.
The minister of supplies and internal trade said earlier
this week bakers would face criminal prosecution if they went on
The government, which is seeking a $4.8 billion loan from
the International Monetary Fund, is under pressure to curb
spending on food and fuel subsidies that swallow up around a
quarter of the state budget. The government plans to start
rationing the subsidised bread under plans to cut spending.
Egypt's economy has been in tatters since the revolt of 2011
that ousted Hosni Mubarak. A mostly desert nation with a
population of 84 million, it is the world's biggest importer of
($1 = 6.7812 Egyptian pounds)
(Reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Michael Roddy)