Cairo lifts customs duties in effort to control food prices

03 April 2008

The Egyptian government has removed customs duties on imports of a number of basic food products in an effort to mitigate the impact of rapidly rising prices.

A presidential decree has lifted customs tariffs on rice, butter and other dairy products, cooking oil and powdered baby milk, according to the official Middle East News Agency.

The decree also includes the removal of duties on sanitary towels and medication to treat cancer, kidney failure and liver disease. Tariffs have also been removed on iron, cement and solar-powered heaters.

The measures come in the midst of a food crisis in the country, prompted by a 26.5 per cent increase in staple food prices in the last 12 months. Subsidised bread has been in short supply and the increasing prices have encouraged the creation of a black market for flour.

At least 10 people are reported to have died in bread queues where the wait has, in some cases, exceeded seven hours.

At the end of March the government resorted to opening army bakeries to improve the distribution of bread.

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