© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker collects wheat at the Benha grain silos in Al Qalyubia Governorate, Egypt, May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo
By Sarah El Safty and Michael Hogan
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s state grains buyer bought about a half a million metric tons of Russian wheat in a private deal, four traders told Reuters, succeeding in negotiating lower prices than those offered in the more traditional tenders.
One of the world’s biggest importers of wheat, Egypt last year started shifting towards direct purchases instead of tenders after the war in Ukraine disrupted its buying.
The General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) bought about 480,000 metric tons of Russian wheat from trading firm Solaris on Friday, at a price of about $270 a ton on a cost and freight basis (C&F), the traders said.
GASC was not immediately available for comment.
Traders have told Reuters the price could possibly be below an unofficial floor set by Russia’s government to control domestic wheat prices.
Other Russian wheat suppliers submitted offers on Friday at a free-on-board price of $265 per metric ton, believing it to be the set price floor, and a C&F price that exceeded $270 per ton.
Traders told Reuters the price floor was not legally binding but that suppliers were expected to follow instructions from Russia’s agriculture ministry.
There is a lack of clarity in the market about the level of the Russian minimum floor price.
Traders say there are different minimum prices for private sales and sales in public tenders, as well as different prices for sales in each month between September and December and discounts for lower protein wheat grades.
In a tender last week, all Russian suppliers had submitted bids at a price floor set at $270 per metric ton on a FOB basis, with C&F prices ranging between $286.25 and $291 per metric ton.
Traders told Reuters at the time that this had weighed on Russian wheat’s competitiveness, with GASC buying cheaper Romanian and French wheat instead.
GASC had also privately bought one cargo of Bulgarian wheat at $270 per ton C&F on Friday.
After the war in Ukraine disrupted the country’s wheat exports, Egypt had been mainly relying on the relatively cheap Russian grain.
Last year Egypt’s supply minister said purchasing directly from suppliers enabled it to negotiate better prices at times of uncertainty.
The North African country has been suffering from a foreign currency crunch after the Ukraine war delivered a broad shock to its economy, causing it to start deferring wheat payments.
The government had recently signed a $500 million loan agreement with the Abu Dhabi Exports Office (ADEX) to buy imported wheat from UAE-based agribusiness Al Dahra.