CAIRO/ABU DHABI Jan 13 Egypt, the world's
largest grain importer, is streamlining its import procedures
and establishing a registry of companies that will inspect
potential purchases abroad, the Trade Ministry said on Friday.
An intergovernmental feud over import regulations for wheat
effectively cut Egypt off from global markets last year.
The latest regulations mean that officials who led the
agriculture quarantine process and used to reject many shipments
last year will no longer be the lead authority on grains
inspections, according to a Trade Ministry statement quoting a
decree by the minister.
Egypt will no longer send government inspectors abroad, an
intervention that has often delayed the approval process.
The changes will also reduce the role of the Health
Ministry, another body potentially able to slow down shipments.
Upon arrival the grains will be inspected by Egypt's General
Organization for Export and Import Control (GOEIC), a Trade
Friday's Trade Ministry decree provided guidelines for a
November prime ministerial decree that made GOEIC the new lead
authority on grains inspections.
Importers now have to submit a form to the GOEIC specifying
the shipment's country of origin and the amount being imported.
Approvals are to be issued within two working days of
submission. The GOEIC will coordinate with the quarantine
authorities over which ports of origin are acceptable to import
Traders say the old import regulations made doing business
with Egypt at times nearly impossible, with uncertainty over
rejections keeping many of them from entering state tenders.
Egypt had imposed a zero-tolerance policy on the common
grain fungus ergot last year. The rule was reversed after
suppliers shunned the state's tenders and effectively cut off
its access to global grains.
The agriculture quarantine body was widely viewed by
suppliers as driving the zero-tolerance policy, despite
conflicting legislation allowing for trace levels of ergot up to
0.05 percent, a common international standard.
(Reporting by Eric Knecht and Maha El Dahan; Writing by Ahmed
Aboulenein; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)