Egypt hikes subsidised bread price for first time in decades

While the official price of a subsidised loaf has remained stable for three decades, consumers report its size has progressively shrunk

By AFP

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File Photo. Image used for illustrative purposes
File Photo. Image used for illustrative purposes

Published: Wed 29 May 2024, 6:58 PM

Egypt's cabinet decided Wednesday to raise the price of subsidised bread for the first time in 30 years, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said.

The price of a loaf, long set at five piastres ($0.001), would quadruple to 20 piastres ($0.004) from June 1, Madbouly told a news conference.


Madbouly acknowledged the move would be unpopular but emphasised the need to "rationalise the burden on the state treasury to ensure the sustainability of subsidies".

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Of the country's 106 million people, 71 million benefited from bread subsidies, he said.

While the official price of a subsidised loaf has remained stable for three decades, consumers report its size has progressively shrunk.

Cairo has been suffering its worst economic crisis for two years, with the currency losing two-thirds of its value and inflation soaring to a record 40 per cent last year.

Egyptians, many of whom lived at or below the poverty line before the crisis, have dipped into life savings to cope with rising food prices, which saw over 70 per cent inflation last year.

Earlier this year, Cairo received a bailout of over $50 billion in loans and investment deals from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Arab Emirates.

These deals included promises of reforms, such as limiting the state's role in the economy and enacting policies to rein in inflation.

The government has signalled wide-reaching subsidy reforms, including plans to lift subsidies on fuel and electricity.

Recently, officials have reduced fuel subsidies and raised public transportation prices but avoided changing bread subsidies – a staple food and symbol of Egyptian livelihood.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has long argued that the pegged bread price was unsustainable for state coffers.

Madbouly also said Wednesday the government was considering moving towards a "cash subsidy" model.

Last year's budget allocated 529 billion pounds ($11.2 billion) to subsidies, about a sixth of the total budget, while debt servicing accounted for over a third of the budget, or 1.12 trillion pounds.

Cairo's foreign debt has more than tripled over the past decade to a record $165 billion, according to central bank figures.

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