Ashraf El Attal discusses how Egypt can become self-sufficient in Wheat Production
Ashraf El Attal is the former president of the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA). He is an influential business leader who has served on a number of positions in his 33 yearlong business career. Attal has a very strong track record of success in a number of professional fields.
Currently, he is the CEO of Fortuna DMCC, a Dubai based trading house which supplies commodities such as food grains, feeds and by-Products. It also supplies major UN agencies and NGO’s with commodities as well as food and hygiene parcels.
We talked with this popular Egyptian Wheat Trader at length how his nation can become self-sufficient in wheat production. Here are some excerpts from our Interview with Ashraf El Attal.
1. Did Russia really exported substandard wheat to Egypt in 2009 and 2017 or there is more to it than meets the eye?
Ashraf El Attal: Russia has a very good quality wheat and always up to the international standards. This year, Russia became the largest wheat exporter in the world with an estimated export volume of 36 MMT
2. How do you view wheat trade problem in Egypt?
Ashraf El Attal: Egypt is the world’s largest buyer of wheat as well as the largest buyer of Russian Wheat. Both countries rely on each other and this cooperation will continue provided that Russia is producing enough wheat.
3. What can be the ultimate solution to end the Wheat problem in Egypt once forever?
Ashraf El Attal: Egypt should work on 2 strategies:
1) Remove the bread subsidy and replace it by cash subsidy. This by default will decrease the consumption per capital from 178 kg to max 100 kg.
2) This will reduce the total wheat importation to 4-5 MMt instead of the current 12 MMt.
3) Encourage Egyptian farmers to grow more wheat, to reduce the dependency on imports. Also the need to improve the yield
4. Is smartcard system a success or failure? Was there really a need to introduce smart card system in the country?
Ashraf El Attal: Cash subsidy is the best form of subsidy as it gives the money to the qualified people. It also creates a better consumption pattern and reduces the waste
5. What if Russia blocks wheat to Egypt?
Ashraf El Attal: I don’t see a reason Russia would attempt to such act since Egypt is its largest customer. Nevertheless, there are other alternatives in the black sea or the Americas
6. Are Egypt’s domestic wheat reserves sufficient enough to meet the food needs of its citizens?
Ashraf El Attal: Egypt normally keeps 3-4 months supplies in stock. Next month the local harvest will start which will increase the local stocks by default
7. According to experts, Egypt’s ambition to transform the nation into global commodities hub has not so far yielded any convincing results to attract global companies. Is it true?
Ashraf El Attal: This idea was put on the table a few years back. In my opinion, the double handling cost won’t make sense.