Egypt’s police step in to combat potato shortage

In this Oct. 18, 2016 file photo, produce is sold in Tawfiqia fruit and vegetable market in downtown Cairo, Egypt. (AP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Egypt’s police step in to combat potato shortage

  • The media have been publicizing raids on warehouses where authorities say businessmen are hoarding potatoes to try to drive up prices
  • The Interior Ministry, which runs the police, has begun selling potatoes at reduced prices at temporary outlets

CAIRO: Egypt’s police are stepping in to fight a potato shortage that has caused prices for the staple to soar beyond the reach of many at a time when Egyptians are struggling with steadily rising food costs.
Pro-government newspapers and TV stations have been publicizing raids on warehouses where authorities say businessmen are hoarding potatoes to try to drive up prices. The raids have showcased the lengths to which authorities are willing to go to prevent popular discontent from boiling over as they impose a raft of austerity measures intended to reform the economy.
For the first time, the Interior Ministry, which runs the police, has begun selling potatoes at reduced prices at temporary outlets, drawing long lines of customers. The move mirrors what the military has done for years, selling food from trucks deployed across the country.
The shortage came at a delicate time, with Egyptians bracing for a new round of price hikes early next year. Many expect fuel costs to rise again, which would have a domino effect on other goods, including farm produce.
Many farmers appear to have avoided planting potatoes this year because their previous harvest was sold at a loss due to higher production costs. Before the shortage, a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of potatoes cost as little as 11 cents, which then rocketed to up to 84 cents at the peak of the shortage last week.
“A tough message has been sent out and that is the government will not stand idly by while hoarding basic items is being done,” Agriculture Minister Ezzedine Abu Stait said in a television interview about the police raids. “We are not saying that merchants should not turn a profit, we are just saying that the profit must be fair.”


Egypt to host African summits Tuesday on Sudan, Libya

Updated 42 min 36 sec ago
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Egypt to host African summits Tuesday on Sudan, Libya

  • The leaders will focus on “the evolution of the situation in Sudan” where protests continue after the military toppled president Omar Al-Bashir
  • The planned summits are the first to be convened by African leaders on the current crises in Sudan and Libya

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will lead two emergency summits with other African leaders on Tuesday to address events in Sudan and Libya, his presidency said.
The leaders will focus on “the evolution of the situation in Sudan” where protests continue after the military toppled president Omar Al-Bashir.
They will also seek to “stem the current crisis” in Libya, where commander Khalifa Haftar is leading an offensive on Tripoli, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement.
El-Sisi is also the current president of the African Union.
He will receive the Chadian president Idriss Deby, Rwanda’s head of state Paul Kagame, Congo’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa as well as Dijbouti’s leader Ismail Omar Guelleh.
The planned summits are the first to be convened by African leaders on the current crises in Sudan and Libya.
For Sudan, the objective “is to discuss ... the most appropriate ways to address the evolution of the situation and to contribute to stability and peace,” Egypt’s presidency said.
The AU on April 15 threatened to suspend Sudan if the military does not hand over power within 15 days of that date to a civilian authority.
President of the African Union commission Moussa Faki is also expected to participate in the discussions, along with officials from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria.
Another summit on Libya, which will bring together the leaders of Rwanda, South Africa and the Congo with El-Sisi, will focus on “relaunching a political process... (and) the elimination of terrorism,” Egypt’s presidency said.
Strongman Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, on April 4.
Egypt is a strong ally of Haftar, who is also backed by the UAE and — according to the White House — was consulted by US President Donald Trump in a phone call last week.