Egypt eases ergot fungus ban on wheat imports after seller outrage

An Egyptian farmer holds wheat crops on a farm in Beni Suef, 75 miles, (120 kilometers), south of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, May 22, 2015. Egyptian farmers are struggling to maintain crop productivity due to outdated irrigation and harvest methods, as well as the government's lifting of energy and agricultural subsidies.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt has lifted a ban on even trace amounts of fungus in its wheat imports, after sellers enraged by Cairo’s demands boycotted tenders, threatening the supply of the world’s largest importer of the grain.

Wednesday’s announcement by the Cabinet reinstates rules allowing imported wheat cargoes to contain up to 0.05 percent of ergot, a common fungus that is harmless in such amounts, in line with global standards.

Egyptian officials vacillated over the issue this past year, sometimes allowing imports to contain the harmless traces and other times insisting on an all-out ban and rejecting some ships. The move sowed confusion in the markets.

The Cabinet says it’s hiring a specialized international firm to check imported wheat’s compliance.


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