Egypt’s agriculture ministry updates policy to end ergot confusion

Egypt, the world’s biggest importer of wheat, consumes 17 million tons of the grain per year but produces no more than 9.6 million tons. (Reuters)
Updated 14 December 2017
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Egypt’s agriculture ministry updates policy to end ergot confusion

DUBAI: Egypt’s agriculture ministry has officially brought its policy on common grain fungus ergot into line with other government agencies, in a move traders hope will end long-running confusion over import requirements at the world’s biggest wheat buyer.
“We want to reassure our suppliers,” Hamed Abdel Dayem, spokesman for the ministry, told Reuters on Thursday, confirming its new decree.
Reuters reported late on Wednesday the new decree, dated Dec. 12, stated that any wheat with an ergot content above 0.05 percent would be rejected, while shipments infected below that level would be treated and accepted.
This fixes a discrepancy in regulations governing the work of the agricultural quarantine agency, which falls under the agriculture ministry.
Confusion over Egypt’s ergot policy wreaked havoc on global grain markets in 2016 until a decree by the prime minister put an end to the crisis by enforcing the common international 0.05 percent tolerance level over the stricter zero tolerance policy practiced by agricultural inspectors.
The root of the problem was a 2001 regulation used by the country’s agriculture quarantine inspectors which stipulated, until this week’s decree, a zero tolerance for ergot.
That regulation had remained unchanged despite the prime minister’s decree issued more than a year ago.
Other Egyptian officials and bodies followed a different specification issued in 2010 by the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality allowing trace levels of up to 0.05 percent, the common worldwide standard and the one stipulated by Egypt’s grain-importing body, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC).
The agriculture ministry’s latest decree changes that.
“This means officially by the law, there should be no more ergot issues,” a Cairo-based trader said.
In November, Egypt filed a legal complaint against a court ruling issued earlier in the month that effectively reinstated zero tolerance for the fungus.
GASC has continued to retain its 0.05 percent tolerance level in shipments despite the court ruling.


Hajj season boosts Middle East hotel demand in August

Updated 42 min 14 sec ago
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Hajj season boosts Middle East hotel demand in August

  • Occupancy rates — a measure of the proportion of available rooms sold — in the region jumped to 63.4 percent from 62.1 percent
  • The average daily room rate — another key industry metric — increased 12.2 percent to reach close to $170 per night

LONDON: Demand for hotel rooms across the Middle East leapt last month providing welcome relief for an industry that has been grappling with an oversupply of hotel accommodation, new data showed.
Occupancy rates — a measure of the proportion of available rooms sold — in the region jumped to 63.4 percent from 62.1 percent, according to data provider STR’s research published on Sept. 24.
The average daily room rate — another key industry metric — increased 12.2 percent to reach close to $170 per night, while revenue per available room (RevPar) increased by 14.5 percent to reach $107.50.
The region’s hotel sector has been under pressure due partly to the impact of low oil prices and geopolitical risks, resulting in a slump in room revenue and occupancy as supply exceeded demand.
“It is true in the broader sense that we have been seeing a softening of market-wide RevPar levels in the hospitality sector across most major cities within the GCC countries,” said Ali Manzoor, partner, hospitality and leisure at property consultancy firm Knight Frank.
Analysts have blamed the year-on-year uptick in August on the earlier Hajj season and Eid Al-Adha holiday, rather than indicative of a change in outlook for the sector.
“The spike in occupancy levels in August was largely attributable to differences between the Gregorian and Hijri calendars,” Manzoor said.
This year, the pilgrimage period took place in August, helping to boost the industry’s performance that month. “It is therefore reasonable to expect hotels to underperform in the month of September in relation to last year,” he said.
Looking at data for the year-to-date, the UAE retains the highest occupancy rate in the Gulf region at 72.2 percent, though this represents a slight decline of 0.8 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to STR data.
Saudi Arabia’s occupancy levels stood at 58.1 percent year-to-date, marginally up by 0.2 percent on last year.