(Corrects throughout to make clear government is procuring wheat, not harvesting)
* Govt to pay farmers 655-685 pounds per ardeb of wheat
* Union says that is too low and will discourage production
* Egypt procured 3.15 mln tonnes in last year’s harvest
CAIRO, March 6 (Reuters) - Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, aims to procure 3.6 million tonnes of wheat from local farmers in the coming season that starts in April, the supply minister said on Wednesday.
The state will pay farmers between 655-685 Egyptian pounds($38-$39) per ardeb (150 kilograms) of wheat depending on quality, Ali Moselhy said.
“This is a fair and special price ... We are targeting [a procurement of] 3.6 million tonnes and the funds from the finance ministry have been secured,” Moselhy said, in footage broadcast by state TV.
The head of the farmers’ union, however, told Reuters that farmers had requested the government pay 800 Egyptian pounds per ardeb and that the current price would drive farmers away from growing wheat.
“I expect the crop to fall this year due to the spread of yellow rust and climate change, which will increase the losses incurred by farmers,” Hussein Abu Saddam said.
Egypt procured 3.15 million tonnes of wheat during the harvest season last year, one of its lowest tallies in years, at 570-600 Egyptian pounds per ardeb.
Traders said at the time that some of the local crop was bought by private mills, which offered higher prices than the government, as global prices rose above the government’s price during harvest time. ($1 = 17.4300 Egyptian pounds) (Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Additional reporting by Momen Atallah; Editing by Louise Heavens, Susan Fenton and Sonya Hepinstall)