EGYPT – the Egyptian government has revised its bread subsidy policy, allowing the selling of discounted bread to citizens not enrolled in its ration card program through designated prepaid cards, effective January 2024.

Ali Al-Moselhi, Egypt’s Minister of Supply made the announcement during a telephonic discussion with Lamees Al-Hadidi on the Last Word program aired on ONTV channel on Tuesday.

This move seeks to extend the benefits of subsidized bread beyond the 72 million citizens registered on 21 million ration cards. Notably, Egypt produces a staggering 250 to 275 million loaves of bread daily through the existing subsidized bread system.

Abdullah Ghorab, head of the bakeries division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (Fedcoc) while referring to the government’s approval stated that citizens will be able to buy bread loaves for 1 Egyptian pound each from government-run bakeries nationwide.

This cost translates to the actual cost of production according to experts.

According to Ghorab, all 30,000 government-run bakeries countrywide will participate in this initiative, Ghorab said in remarks to the ONTV channel on Tuesday evening.

He explained that citizens can acquire prepaid cards through the Egyptian postal service.

Egypt relies heavily on wheat for making bread, a main staple of the Egyptian diet.

Government officials estimate that citizens consume almost 100 billion loaves of bread annually.

The government provides the 90-gram loaf of subsidized bread – locally known as baldy bread – to citizens enrolled in the ration card system for five piasters instead of its actual cost of 90 piasters.

Earlier this year, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Moselhi said the initiative would allow non-holders of ration cards to buy 10 or 20 loaves of subsidized bread.

However, Gohrab asserted that there will be no limit on the number of loaves that can be purchased per person.

Egypt’s decision to offer subsidized bread for non-holders of ration cards comes as the country is facing challenges related to wheat shortage, primarily caused by the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

Before the conflict, 80 percent of Egypt’s imported wheat originated from Russia and Ukraine.

A World Bank report identified Egypt’s food subsidy program as the largest in MENA. 

The bread subsidy program alone serves 72 million citizens, while the food ration cards cover more than 64 million people, according to the report.