Egypt cracks down on bakeries flouting bread-price controls

Inspections intensify as prices increase despite declining cost of flour

Bread at a market in Cairo. The latest action by authorities comes as the price of flour has dropped by more than a third since late last month. EPA
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Egyptian authorities have launched an enforcement drive to ensure bakeries comply with state-mandated price controls on bread, the staple of the nation's 114 million people.

Agents have been deployed across Al Obour, a satellite city of Cairo, to inspect bakeries that make non-subsidised bread – also known as tourists' bread – and verify they are producing and selling the product at the required weight and price, a Consumer Protection Agency statement said.

The National spoke to several bakeries in the capital on Sunday morning to find many had increased their prices by as much as 50 piastres (about 1 US cent) from the previous week.

“These campaigns are a follow-up to the directives of the Prime Minister [Mostafa Madbouly] to monitor the market situation on the ground, in light of the implementation of the President's [Abdel Fattah El Sisi's] directives to the government that the citizen should feel a radical and significant decrease in prices,” said Ibrahim El Sejini, head of the CPA.

A loaf that cost 2 Egyptian pounds last week now sells for 2.50 pounds at one bakery in Heliopolis city, while another in Haram increased its price from 2.50 to 3 pounds.

The crackdown comes even as prices of flour have dropped since late last month by more than a third to 14,000 Egyptian pounds a tonne.

A ministerial directive this month dictated flat loaves of tourist bread weighing 80g had to be capped at 1.50 Egyptian pounds, 40g at 75 piastres and 25g bread at 50 piastres.

The directive also set prices for fino bread, an Egyptian variation of the French baguette.

Bakery owners attribute price variations to differences in the quality of flour used and various levels of shop rent.

Inspections in the Cairo suburb found 16 breaches, said the CPA, accusing bakeries of failing to display prices on labels, manipulating the weight of loaves and selling above official prices.

Violators were referred to the public prosecutor.

The enforcement follows several reports this month that free-market bakeries, whose operations and pricing differ from bakeries that sell government-subsidised bread, had not lowered prices for consumers despite the drop in flour costs.

At the time, several Cairo bakers told The National they were disregarding government warnings and continuing to set prices based on market factors.

With Egypt's inflation rate still higher than 30 per cent, lowering the cost of staples such as bread remains a major economic and political imperative.

The government closely regulates the price of subsidised bread, which is sold at 5 piastres per loaf to about 71 million Egyptians.

Still, the free-market bread sector has traditionally faced less oversight and enforcement.

Updated: April 28, 2024, 9:30 AM