Egypt says it will not import rice this financial year

FILE PHOTO: Egypt’s Supply Minister Ali Moselhy looks on during a news conferenc about the launch of the Government’s local wheat harvest in Beni Suef, south of Cairo, Egypt April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s supply minister said on Sunday the country had enough strategic rice reserves to last until Feb. 15 and there would be no need for imports in the current financial year.

Egypt’s financial year 2019-2020 ends on June 30.

Ali Moselhy told Reuters local rice production was sufficient to last until then and there would be no need for further imports.

Once a rice exporter, Egypt reduced its rice cultivation in an effort to conserve Nile river resources as Ethiopia builds a $4 billion dam upstream that Cairo fears could impact its water supply.

The move turned it from an exporter to an importer in 2018.

Still, in March Egypt’s agriculture ministry said it would grow about 1.1 million acres of rice in the 2019 season, up from 800,000 acres in 2018, in an effort to reduce the country’s import bill.

Rice is a heavily discounted staple in Egypt’s subsidy program, under which the state purchases foodstuffs that are offered to subsidy card holders.

Moselhy on Sunday reassured the public that the price of rice would remain stable.

The agriculture ministry has not released local production figures for the current season yet.

Reporting By Momen Saeed Atallah; Writing By Maha El Dahan; editing by David Evans