When Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo three years ago, they called for “bread, freedom, and social justice”. Bread is absolutely central to the Egyptian diet, yet the country is massively dependent on others for supply. It imports almost twice as much wheat as all 27 EU member states put together, making it by far the largest wheat importer in the world.
Post-harvest waste of domestically grown wheat is high. The government calculates that between 20%–30% of harvested wheat never finds its way to market, but private estimates put the figure as high as 50% in some part of the country. “This is millions of dollars that we are losing,” says 49-year-old Khalid al-Hanafi, who became supply minister last March after a career as an economics professor.
So Hanafi has been given a generous budget, and the freedom to put in place some fairly radical policies, by a government that may be making debatable progress on freedom and social justice but which is determined to make sure no one runs out of bread ever again.