Top court in Egypt permits wheat with trace ergot

Fresh bread in Egypt. (Goldream/iStock/Getty Images)

Cairo | Reuters — Egypt’s top administrative court has ruled that the country should accept wheat with marginal levels of the common grain fungus ergot, a local newspapers said on Sunday, freezing a lower court order to ban the fungus entirely which had vexed traders.

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, baffled grain markets when it began imposing a zero-tolerance level on ergot in 2016, prompting suppliers to boycott state tenders until the country re-instated a tolerance of up to 0.05 per cent ergot in cargoes, a common international standard.

The total fungus ban was lifted, only for a lower administrative court to reinstate it, citing health concerns.

That ban was never adopted at Egypt’s ports, as the government appealed the decision and said it would continue to permit up to 0.05 per cent in cargoes during the appeal process.

Confusion over the ergot policy has at times prompted major international suppliers to shun tenders and add hefty risk premiums to their offers, so any final court ruling could ease traders doing business with the mega-grain buyer.

According to the Canadian Grain Commission, Egypt’s imports of Canadian wheat from licensed elevators sat at around just 8,000 tonnes in the 2015-16 crop year and near nil in 2016-17, down from 56,300 tonnes in 2014-15 and 405,000 back in 2010-11.

Egypt’s agriculture ministry said earlier this year it would form a committee to revise legislation governing the work of the agricultural quarantine authority, the primary government agency that had pushed for a blanket ergot ban.

Reporting for Reuters by Maha Eldahan; writing by Eric Knecht. Includes files from Network staff.

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