Egyptian court ruling means return to ergot wheat ban, lawyer says

The court verdict returns that authority to the agriculture quarantine body, which was widely viewed by suppliers as spearheading the controversial ban on the presence of the ergot fungus in wheat shipments.

By: Reuters | Cairo | Updated: June 6, 2017 7:28 pm
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail talks to reporters at Cairo International Airport, Thursday, May 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Selman Elotefy)

An Egyptian court ruling on Tuesday means the world’s largest importer of wheat will return to a zero-tolerance policy on the common grains fungus ergot, a lawyer involved in the case told Reuters. An administrative court on Tuesday struck down a government decree transferring responsibility for inspecting strategic agricultural imports from the Agriculture Ministry’s quarantine body to the Trade Ministry.

The court verdict returns that authority to the agriculture quarantine body, which was widely viewed by suppliers as spearheading the controversial ban on the presence of the ergot fungus in wheat shipments. The zero-tolerance policy led to suppliers shunning state tenders and effectively cut off Egypt’s access to global grain markets. Lawyer Khaled Ali, who represents the Agriculture Ministry employees who brought the case to court, said the verdict means Egypt will have to resume the ban on ergot fungus in wheat.

The Trade Ministry declined to comment. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail issued a decree in November naming the General Organization for Export and Import Control (GOEIC), which is part of the Trade Ministry, as the body responsible for inspecting the imports following a months’ long standoff over wheat import rules that hampered the country’s ability to purchase grains from abroad.

The government can appeal Tuesday’s verdict, Ali said, but it must be implemented in the meantime. The case was brought by some quarantine inspection employees in their capacity as citizens, not by the body itself.

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