CAIRO (Reuters) - Tests carried out by Egypt’s Health Ministry showed a Russian wheat shipment held in Alexandria was not fit for consumption and would be re-exported, the official news agency MENA reported on Tuesday.
Quarantine officials in Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, stepped up wheat inspections last year after a dispute erupted with local wheat importing company Egyptian Traders over the quality of two Russian wheat cargoes.
Nomani Nomani, the vice president of the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) which has bought several cargoes of Russian wheat since then, told Reuters the cargo in question was owned by a private importer, not the state buyer.
He did not name any private firm or give further details.
“Results of tests carried out by the Health Ministry on the cargo of Russian wheat that was recently held in Alexandria confirmed it was spoiled and not fit for human consumption because it contained a large number of live insects,” MENA said.
It said the public prosecutor had decided “to detain the cargo in preparation for re-exporting it”. The report described bugs in the shipment as weevils.
Russian animal and plant watchdog Rospotrebnadzor in Moscow could not immediately be reached for comment.
Egypt’s GASC has bought several cargoes of Russian wheat at international tender since the start of the year, including three 60,000-tonne cargoes in June.
After last year’s row over wheat, Egypt said in December it was looking to increase Russian wheat imports and to attract Russian investment to build silos.
Health Ministry spokesman Abdelrahman Shahin confirmed a sample of wheat tested by the ministry included insects but could not confirm the origin of the wheat and said it was up to other authorities to determine the fate of any cargo.
Asked about the inspection process, the spokesman said each wheat cargo arriving in Egypt was checked by a committee made up of respresentatives from the health, agriculture and trade ministries.
Samples were tested by the Health Ministry laboratories, reviewed by the committee and then sent to the prosecutor.