Executive Briefings

Inspection Battle Threatens Egypt's Wheat Supply

Wheat shipments to Egypt, the world's largest buyer, are being disrupted by a dispute involving government inspectors angered by a ban on the expenses-paid foreign trips they once enjoyed to approve cargoes at their ports of origin.

Those trips, funded by exporters, have been canceled as part of Egypt's efforts to streamline imports worth more than $1bn a year. Traders say the new system has backfired as inspectors are now rejecting cargoes at Egyptian ports on arbitrary and unpredictable grounds.

There is more to the problem than erratic policies and red tape, according to interviews with grains traders, agriculture quarantine inspectors, government officials, and a review of inspection documents.

According to these sources, difficulties for importers are rather the result of a tug-of-war over the right to inspect cargoes abroad, where until recently government quarantine inspectors enjoyed fully-funded trips, dinners and shopping at the expense of supply companies looking to secure safe passage for their wheat.

By applying higher standards to grains upon arrival, inspectors are driving up costs in a bid to undermine inspection companies that replaced them abroad, traders said.

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Those trips, funded by exporters, have been canceled as part of Egypt's efforts to streamline imports worth more than $1bn a year. Traders say the new system has backfired as inspectors are now rejecting cargoes at Egyptian ports on arbitrary and unpredictable grounds.

There is more to the problem than erratic policies and red tape, according to interviews with grains traders, agriculture quarantine inspectors, government officials, and a review of inspection documents.

According to these sources, difficulties for importers are rather the result of a tug-of-war over the right to inspect cargoes abroad, where until recently government quarantine inspectors enjoyed fully-funded trips, dinners and shopping at the expense of supply companies looking to secure safe passage for their wheat.

By applying higher standards to grains upon arrival, inspectors are driving up costs in a bid to undermine inspection companies that replaced them abroad, traders said.

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