A shop in Egypt during its offer for sale (Al Jazeera)

Egyptian Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy said he would ask the cabinet to put in place controls to control sugar prices from early next month if rising prices do not stabilize.

The lack of sugar supply has led to higher prices and unsubsidized sugar shortages in some stores, the latest example of the consequences of record-high inflation and the accompanying continued pressure on the currency in recent months.

Hisham Soliman, head of Egyptian trade firm Mediterranean Star, said the price of a kilo of white sugar had risen to 55 Egyptian pounds ($1.78) this month from 40 pounds last month.

The Minister of Supply attributed the problem of high sugar prices to "irregular distribution".

Soliman said the problem was caused by several factors, including rising global prices due to supply shortages, difficulty obtaining dollars for imports, as well as duties imposed by Egypt on the import of refined sugar.

In recent weeks, the government has tried to mitigate rising prices by selling sugar at discounted prices at some outlets across the country.

It also began putting the sugar it bought through international tenders on the local commodity exchange, selling it to the private sector in an attempt to lower prices.

The government had put in place controls to control the price of unsubsidized rice, a move that did not sit well with suppliers, who responded by cutting production.

Sugar prices in Egypt have risen steadily (Git)

Monopoly and absence of oversight

The high cost of sugar comes despite the fact that statistics issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (a government agency) last May indicate that Egypt achieved 100.1% self-sufficiency in sugar last year, as the country's total production of sugar crops reached nearly 30 million and 6 thousand tons in 2022 compared to 25 million and 62 thousand tons in 2021, an increase of 17.3%.

The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade blamed some citizens who resort to storing sugar in large quantities, while observers spoke to Al Jazeera Net a week ago that behind the crisis stands monopolized traders next to the absence of government control.

Earlier, the head of the Association of citizens against high prices Mahmoud Asqalani for the island net "stands a number of monopolists behind that crisis," stressing that some traders got the production of a number of sugar factories, next to importing large quantities of it, with the aim of monopolizing the market, which led to large jumps in its price from 20 pounds "as a fair price" to 50 pounds.

Al-Asqalani pointed out that he submitted an official communication to the Competition Protection Authority and the Prevention of Monopolistic Practices to open an investigation into what is happening and refer those involved to trial.

For his part, the head of the General Union of Small Farmers, farmer Hashem Farag, said that it is assumed – in light of Egypt's self-sufficiency of sugar crops – that the sale price of a kilo of sugar to only 10 pounds.

He points out in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that the Ministry of Supply sells it in its outlets at a price of 13 pounds, but what is happening in the markets - and talk to Faraj - greed traders without government control.

Hassan al-Fendi, businessman and head of the sugar division at the Egyptian Chamber of Food Industries, said in press statements that the rise in the price of sugar during the current period is unjustified, and is behind the manipulation of some traders.

Government Decisions

In an earlier attempt to address the sugar crisis, the Egyptian government has taken some steps:

  • A contract of 100,2024 tonnes of white sugar to boost strategic stocks is supposed to be sufficient until April <>, according to the government.
  • Pumping between 2000,3000 to 12,60 tons of sugar at the outlets for the exchange of food commodities, where it is put on the ration cards at a price of <>.<> pounds per kilogram.
  • The government's agreement with private commercial chains not to allow the sale of more than 3 kilograms of sugar per person.
  • Pumping large quantities of sugar at the outlets of consumer complexes (governmental) to put it within the current presidential price reduction initiative, at a price of EGP 27 per kilogram.

Source: Al Jazeera + Reuters