Egypt considers India for wheat imports

CAIRO, March 19 (Reuters) - Egypt is considering buying

Indian wheat as a way to diversify its sources, an Egyptian

minister told an Indian newspaper, as the top global importer

seeks to ensure supply through an economic crisis.

Changes to Egypt's food safety law could make it easier for

exporters to work with it, Investment Minister Osama Saleh told

The Hindu Business Line in an interview published on its website

on Tuesday.

"Yes, we are definitely looking at India as an importing

country for wheat. We want to have several diversified sources

and not just the EU or the U.S. or Canada," he said.

He said Egypt's Food Safety Measures law was being amended

and would give more flexibility to exporters.

"Issues of quality control apply to both wheat and meat. So

it should help exporters of both commodities," he said on a

visit to India as part of a trade delegation travelling with

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.

Indian wheat is generally lower in quality than European and

North American produce and more comparable to locally-grown

Egyptian wheat which requires blending with imports for use in

bread-making.

Egypt relies heavily on imports to feed its 84 million

people; last year around half of the wheat they consumed was

imported.

Its strategic stocks of wheat have fallen to 2.207 million

tonnes, enough to last 89 days, a cabinet report said last week.

Economic turmoil has made it harder to arrange payments for

wheat imports. The pace of purchases has tumbled since the start

of the year.

While stocks have fallen, the government also raised its

projection of the local harvest. The agriculture minister on

Monday forecast domestic wheat production of 9.475 million

tonnes this season.

India, the world's second largest producer, plans to export

record volumes of wheat this year. Grain stocks have already

surpassed its secure storage capacity of 47 million tonnes,

risking damage from pests and weather. Another bumper harvest of

some 92 million tonnes is on the way.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by William Hardy)