Egypt faces a severe sugar shortage leading to a staggering 275 percent price hike per kilogram, prompting Supply Minister Ali Al-Moselhi to issue a public apology and assure citizens of a resolution by December 15.
For the past month, Egyptians had to endure hours-long queues to acquire only two kilograms of sugar, and in some regions, the allocation is reduced to one kilogram. The situation persists despite the minister’s reassurances.
“I can only find [sugar] at a price of EGP 50 per kilogram (USD 1.62),” a consumer in Maadi told Egyptian Streets. “It’s not even available in stores. I only get it on Talabat Mart or Rabbit.”
Widespread concerns have arisen over the significant price surge, with accusations that vendors and food and beverage companies are hoarding their supplies.
One consumer described an emerging black market for sugar at the height of the crisis earlier this month as she had to meet the vendor behind the store, where he sold her two kilograms of sugar at a price of EGP 50 (USD 1.62).
Reports of a black market for sugar emerged, describing covert transactions behind stores, with consumers forced to pay exorbitant prices just to obtain basic supplies.
Describing her ordeal, a consumer mentioned, “The store was refusing to sell. It was only after I convinced the vendor that he agreed and asked me to meet him behind the store in 10 minutes.”
Another consumer reported that they found a half kilogram of Al-Doha sugar at a price of EGP 55 (USD 1.78). “That is when I am able to find it. Most of the time, I have to buy other sweeteners because I can’t find it anywhere,” she explained.
In an effort to alleviate the pressure on consumers, the supply ministry implemented increases in the sugar allocations for ration cards on 7 December. Ration cards for up to three individuals now receive an additional one kilogram allocation, while cards for four individuals or more receive an increase of two kilograms.
The supply ministry allocates one kilogram of subsidized sugar per individual per month on ration cards, with a maximum limit of six kilograms per card.
The responsibility for distribution falls under the Holding Company for Food Industries (HCFI), an entity affiliated with the supply ministry. The HCFI is mandated to distribute approximately 30,000 tons of unsubsidized sugar and around 65,000 tons of subsidized sugar through a network of 40,000 outlets per month.
Ahmed Kamal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Supply, revealed that the HCFI supplies up to 10,000 tons of sugar daily.
Moselhy attributed the shortage of sugar in shops to a significant reduction in supply, driven by a decrease in private sector contributions, an uptick in exports, and various logistical challenges.
Around three months ago, global sugar prices experienced a rise, prompting many Egyptian private sector producers to prioritize exports in order to maximize profits.
To curb the crisis, the Ministry of Local Trade and Industry imposed a three-month ban on sugar exports, extending it twice, first in June and then again in September.
Egypt’s annual sugar production is at 2.8 million tons, while consumption hovers around 3.2 million tons, according to the Ministry of Supply.
Moselhi also announced that merchants will be granted a 10-day window to decrease sugar prices, warning of potential government intervention through “forced pricing measures” if the reduction is not implemented.
The ministry urged citizens not to purchase sugar at a price exceeding EGP 27 (USD 0.87) per kilogram, assuring that the ongoing crisis will be resolved by the upcoming month.