Bread riots erupt across Egypt amid subsidy cut fears

Bread riots erupt across Egypt amid subsidy cut fears
Discontent simmers in austerity-stricken Egypt, as protesters accuse the country's government of underhand tactics in cutting bread subsidies.
2 min read
07 March, 2017
Protesters gathered in Alexandria, Cairo and several other cities across Egypt [AFP]
Hundreds of Egyptians protested across the country on Tuesday in response to a change in the distribution of bread rations that many are reliant on.

Protesters blocked roads and surrounded government buildings amid fears that the government was cutting food rations by stealth, as some were left without their ration.

"We are suffering from high prices. We have nothing left to live on but bread and now the government wants to deprive us of it," said Samia Darwish, a 50-year-old homemaker from Alexandria told Reuters.

The unrest began on Monday and grew on Tuesday, when angry crowds gathered in the coastal city of Alexandria, at least one neighbourhood in Cairo and several other cites around the country.

Social media users used the Arabic hashtag Supply_Uprising, which became the top trending hashtag in Egypt, to post pictures of the demonstrations.

Images showed crowds gathered outside bakeries, with one posted to Twitter showing a man holding a placard saying "I am not Muslim Brotherhood, I am hungry".

"We were surprised when the bakers refused to give us bread with the excuse that the Supply Ministry reduced their rations," said Ahmed Faraj, another Alexandria resident.

As part of Egypt's ration programme, families receive a plastic card to buy five subsidised loaves per head per day.

Bakeries are then paid a subsidy by the government per loaf.

On Monday, the Supply Ministry issued a statement denying that it was planning to cut bread subsidies following reports in local media that suggested rations would be reduced from five to three loaves per day.

The ministry did, however, reduce the amount of bread bakers can sell under the "gold card" scheme, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The gold card scheme allows individuals who are still waiting to receive their smart card to buy subsidised bread. The misuse of gold cards, however costs Egypt's government hundreds of millions of pounds per year.

State rations are a hot topic in Egypt, where over 70 million people receive them. 

Matters have been made worse for Egyptians since the floatation of the country's pound in November, which caused inflation to soar above 30 percent.

This move, coupled with several austerity measures, was implemented as Egypt secured a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help salvage its crisis-stricken economy.