In an effort to dramatically cut wheat imports, Egypt is experimenting with utilizing sweet potatoes in bread.
The unusual action is an effort to lessen the effects of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine on a country with 103 million people and an astronomical wheat import cost.
Wheat prices have increased on the global market as a result of the war, endangering Cairo’s finances and widening the budget deficit.
However, officials at the Ministry of Supply, which is in charge of producing close to 200 million loaves of bread per day for more than 80 million people under the country’s food rationing system, discovered a potential solution in the filing cabinets of the government-run Agricultural Research Center, where research on using a sweet potato variety in bread has lain dormant for more than 20 years. To minimize its reliance on imported wheat, Egypt has begun making sweet potato bread.
According to the researcher, he has been working since 1993 to persuade the authorities of the findings of his investigations. “However, wheat was easy to obtain from the international market all those years,” Abdelmonem al-Gendi told Al-Monitor. Now, with the war in Ukraine threatening Egypt’s food security, the government is listening.
For more than 20 years, Al-Gendi has experimented with every potato variety. Some of the country’s bakeries have already begun making bread using a combination of sweet potato and wheat flour, and according to al-Gendi, if Cairo’s decision-makers adopt his approach, Egypt may completely stop importing wheat in just three years. Al-Gendi remarked, “We can do this by substituting wheat imports with locally produced sweet potatoes,”.
Egypt, the top importer of wheat in the world, is ecstatic about this. Although it only produces roughly half as much wheat as it eats, this bread-dependent nation uses 22 million tons of it annually. The cost of importing wheat, which is in the billions of dollars annually, has increased by over $1.1 billion as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.