A field of wheat is seen during harvest in Orezu, southeastern Romania, July 2, 2014. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
CAIRO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Egypt has sufficient wheat supply to last until late April, just after the government will begin buying wheat from the local harvest, the supplies minister said in a statement on Sunday.
Khaled Hanafi said the government would start procuring wheat from local farmers in mid-April. He said the state would pay farmers 420 Egyptian pounds ($59) per ardeb, the equivalent of around 150 kg. That is the same price it paid last year.
The local price exceeds the price Egypt pays in the international market by more than $100 per tonne.
The minister frequently issues statements about the level of strategic reserves, and these statements do not have a bearing on the world's top wheat importer's purchases from international markets.
Indeed, Egypt's state grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), said on Saturday it had bought 300,000 tonnes of wheat from France and Russia in a tender due for shipment on Jan. 21-31.
Nonetheless, the government's policy aims to encourage farmers to grow more to reduce the reliance on foreign suppliers.
Hanafi said the government hopes to procure 3.6 to 3.7 million tonnes of local wheat in the harvest season that runs from April to June.
That target is down from the 2014 aim of procuring 4 million tonnes, and more in line with the 3.7 million tonnes the government bought from this year's local harvest.
The government signed a deal with an American company this month to overhaul its local wheat storage system to cut rampant waste of the crop that occurs due to poor storage of the freshly harvested grain.
Officials and the company say they intend for the project to be completed by the start of next year's harvest. ($1 = 7.1500 Egyptian pounds) (Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alison Williams)