“Bread loaf” in Egypt… a measure of anxiety

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News published in Egypt these days about “loaf of bread” (bread) is accompanied by archival photos that appear to be historical.

The reader contemplates the image and subjects it to “zoom in” and then “zoom out” operations. He contemplates the loaf that a young girl carries, or a young man eats, or a father transports on a part of a dilapidated cage, and says to himself, “Oh! Glory be to Him who changes and does not change.”

change and not change

The loaf has changed a lot, they say that change is the rule of life and a guarantee of continuity, but change often comes in what the eater of the loaf does not desire, and in Egypt the loaf sits in a psychological, neurological, nutritional, social, cultural, economic and political position that is completely different from other countries, and it is enough that phrases such as “loaf of bread” And “eating bread” and “between us bread and salt” and “the food of his bread was cut off”, and examples such as “the hungry dream of the bread market” and “the one who has bread grieves over cheese” and “I resolve and honor and eat bread is a share”, are not just common phrases and examples Heritage as much as it reflects a considerable amount of the status of “living” in the lives of Egyptians.

Egyptians consume 100 billion loaves of bread annually, bakeries produce 275 million loaves per day, and the beneficiaries of the bread subsidy system are 72 million Egyptian men and women. And subsidizing bread costs the state 90 billion pounds (about three billion dollars) out of the total 150 billion pounds (five billion dollars) value of subsidizing the supply commodities system annually.

frown and sour

Some Egyptians grimace and their mood is disturbed when the government puts forward numbers related to how many loaves the citizens eat. There are those who consider it to be envy of what they eat and a count of what they need, and they deplore that by saying, “You count on us a bite?” Others consider the provision of loaves of bread, whether it is a billion loaves, 100 billion, or even A trillion or two trillion, an obvious duty of the government, any government.

The government official, Assistant Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ibrahim Ashmawy, when he reintroduced the numbers of loaves, the value of subsidies, and the production rate a few days ago, adding the phrase “there is no harm to the price of the loaf now,” prompting the always skeptical and apprehensive along the line and those who feel the price increase automatically with every assertion that “there is no harm.” To speculate what their dear loaf might be exposed to in the near future.

strategic commodity

The near future is based on the present and is inseparable from history, and history says that the loaf of bread is a highly sensitive strategic commodity that is affected by the surrounding environment and has the ability to self-ignite as well as self-extinguish.

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Exactly 46 years ago, on these days in January 1977, the government’s intentions to increase the prices of a group of commodities, including bread, ignited protest demonstrations that swept across the country, and a day before that, the main newspapers published announcing to citizens the decision to pay an additional bonus to all workers. by 10 percent.

A few hours of overwhelming popular joy passed before the next day’s newspaper headlines announced an increase in the prices of a number of commodities, including “fino” (white) bread, sugar, tea, rice, and others.

Although “fine bread” has always been considered the loaf of the wealthy in exchange for “baladi bread” as the loaf of everyone, the words “bread” and “extra” in a useful sentence were capable of igniting what was called at the time the “bread uprising”, and in other words the “revolution of the hungry”. And in a third saying, the “uprising of thieves” remained in the knowledge of the late President Muhammad Anwar Sadat, and Sadat remained until his death, believing that those who ignited the protests were the Communists and the Nasserites.

Nasserite session

The Nasserites like to ruminate on the status of bread in the ideology of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and in his popular media discourse, as the “Charter” stipulates that “the freedom of a loaf of bread is an indispensable guarantee for the freedom of the election ticket.” A Nasserite session is not without telling the story of the bag that Abdel Nasser carried. Once at a government meeting, he took out loaves of local bread from it in anger, and told those present among the members of the government that these loaves were brought from several regions. Then he directed his words to Minister of Supply Kamal Ramzy, asking him with disapproval, “Can you eat this bread?” (indicating its low quality). When Ramzy answered in the negative, the president told him that he would give him 72 hours to improve the bread, “otherwise my account will be severe.”

The loaf has changed a lot, but often the change comes with what the eaters do not desire (AFP)

The intensity of the account, whether governmental or popular, is closely related to the loaf of bread, and this is certain, but what is not certain is the type of account and its criteria, and these days the Egyptian loaf of bread is going through a new phase of the stages of change that it used to go through throughout history. The features of change contain a lot of ambiguity, and in other sayings confusion, and in the third deduction.

In the science of deduction, the human mind is trained to move from one issue or several issues to another issue that serves as the result according to the rules of logic, and the rules of logic say that the world is in crisis, and that the crisis that emerged after the fierce “Covid-19” attack and the stoppage of some of the largest wheat exporters in The world stopped exporting it in anticipation of what the situation would turn into, then its features worsened with the start of the Russia war in Ukraine (the two countries occupy the first and fifth places on the list of the largest exporters of wheat), and more damage and turmoil were inflicted on the supply chains of commodities, especially wheat, then a three-dimensional economic crisis hit Egypt, Inflation, indebtedness, and a shortage of hard currency, and because the absolute majority of Egyptians of different classes and affiliations are aware of what is happening in the world on the one hand and in their country on the other, everyone can only link the current movements in the file of the loaf of bread with all of the above.

The loaf and its crises

The loaf of bread has already gone through dozens of dilemmas, faced hundreds of problems and threatened by thousands of obstacles. Not a year goes by without the loaf itself being presented as a headline in a news bulletin, a vital topic in a TV program, or a crucial issue in a discussion on a bus station or microbus stop.

The talk of the passengers of the microbus does not necessarily address the documentation of the ancient Egyptian making bread in pre-dynastic times 5,800 years ago from “Emmer”, a type of low-gluten wheat. He mixed the flour with water and left it to ferment using natural yeast. Perhaps they do not know that the “solar” bread that they bring back after a visit to the people in the village from which they were displaced is originally ancient Egyptian bread, but they know that the words support and bread are two sides of the same political, security and social coin.

What the Minister of Supply and Internal Trade, Ali Al-Moselhi, said a few days ago about the subsidized loaf of bread left an effect they call “false pain.”

The patient goes to the doctor’s office complaining of abdominal pain, but he is afraid of the detection process, and he thinks that any pressure from the doctor’s hand will increase his pain, so he takes precautions, and as soon as he sees the doctor’s hand approaching his body and before touching him, he begins to groan.

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Popular groans

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Al-Moselhi said that his ministry is studying the conversion of loaves of bread that are spent within the subsidy system for the deserving groups into cash support after the currency has stabilized and inflation has fallen, and he added that the idea was discussed in the House of Representatives (parliament), “but its implementation is not appropriate now,” and here the popular sighs, social groans, and elections began. The street is expected to lose the loaf and dissipate the bite.

A loaf of bread has previously gone through dozens of dilemmas, hundreds of problems and thousands of obstacles threatened it (AFP)

Contemporary history says that the government’s approach to the loaf of bread, as a salt or a statement, agitates the fears of the street and fuels the horns of danger and anticipation of fear, but the Minister of Supply went ahead with his talk about the idea, saying that the current high inflation rate will not allow any changes to be made in the value or form of the subsidy, All state agencies cooperate in order to mitigate the impact of inflation on the citizen, but what seemed to be reassurance with the ability and experience of an affected citizen and complex turned into speculation of an increase in the price, dwarfing in size, a reduction in subsidies, or all of the above.

successive attempts

Over the course of three decades of the rule of the late former President Hosni Mubarak, successive governments have previously tried to approach the subsidy file, at times by subjecting the subsidy system to detection and research to find out where the disease is, and at other times by studying and applying on a small scale as an experiment, perhaps the cash subsidy drug is a substitute for in-kind relief of symptoms. And a third, by calculating the benefits of subsidy reform in exchange for the damages of violating it, and reaching a chronic result based on postponing until further notice.

It seems that the other notice was long-awaited and his patience ran out, or almost, and his weaknesses exploded with the exacerbation of the crises, so he lost his strength and put himself on the table despite the nose of the security of the national loaf and its ability to contain it at the height of the crises.

The current global economic crisis has allied itself with its local dimensions in Egypt, and has begun to hover in the airspace of a loaf of bread, and a loaf of bread remains a psychological barrier, negatively or positively. What is interesting is that the talk of the loaf at this time preoccupies everyone, whether those covered by the subsidy system, including bread, or those classified as “able”. And then they buy it from tourist bakeries at higher prices, or even those who suffer from wheat allergies, so they do not eat bread or follow a harsh diet in which there is no bread.

Touch on the horizon

But the presence of bread in the daily official government offering, and television programs touching on its entity and system, and its transformation into a “trend” and “brand” on the “Social Media” ether are all indications that a touch of the loaf of bread is looming on the horizon.

The horizon this time swings between a subsidized and unsubsidized loaf of bread, that is, those who are eligible for bread subsidies (about 72 million Egyptians) and those who are not eligible (about 32 million) through a recharge card. The Minister of Supply, Ali Al-Moselhi, announced the government’s intention to start selling bread at cost to citizens who do not. They are included in the subsidy system, as part of the government’s efforts to combat inflation.

According to what he stated, citizens who are not covered by the subsidy will spread a 90-gram loaf of bread at the cost, which is expected to be less than one Egyptian pound, but the price has not yet been determined, and the goal, according to Al-Moselhy, is to “make this important commodity available without exaggerating the gain.” .

crowning efforts

The government’s attempts to reduce the exaggeration of gains may be crowned with success, but the exaggeration of fears and the exaggeration in drawing scenarios of hardships, disasters, and catastrophes that are popularly raging will not be cured except by real breakthroughs, total solutions, and actual frankness.

In fact, people are still eating bread, and those who are eligible for bread support are still getting it, and those who are not eligible are still buying it from tourist bakeries, and actually some bakeries produce quantities less than the daily average for variable reasons, and other bakeries are manipulating the weight of the loaf and its specifications, which is a chronic manipulation that has no direct relationship In the crisis, he has nothing but the desire to double the gain, and also the scourge of misuse of subsidized bread continues.

Postpone reprimand

Not talking publicly about the waste of millions of loaves of subsidized bread at the hands of beneficiaries does not mean that the waste has stopped, as beneficiaries of subsidized bread are still using quite a few of their shares of the loaves surplus to their household needs to feed their livestock, as the price of subsidized bread is cheaper than animal feed. Dajani, including those who sell the surplus by kilo and those who make the popular “ice cream” drink from it, unofficial figures indicate that the rate of waste by the beneficiaries of subsidized bread ranges between 25 and 35 percent of its total production.

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Not a year goes by without the loaf itself making a headline in the news bulletin (AFP)​​​​​​

However, the timing, in light of the current economic, social and psychological conditions, is not appropriate to blame the abuser, rebuke the devious, or hold the beneficiary, the climber, or the fisherman in troubled waters accountable.

As has been the case in the past few years, the efforts of the fishermen’s team in the murky waters of crises are evident at this time.

Accounts, pages, tweets, and blogs depicting the loaf of bread as if it had gone out and did not return, the masses of Egyptians as if they were starving and threatening with anger, and the bakeries as if they were empty. From the strength and from the horse’s harness” and that “Islam is the solution” with strict assurances that the tweeters and bloggers are Egyptian citizens who are starved, stung by poverty, and the pain of high prices, and that there is no relationship between them, near or far, with a Brotherhood group here or a sympathetic group there.

Bakery talk

In bakeries that sell subsidized or touristic bread, there are hadiths that have no beginning or another, and on the sound of the smell of hot bread, even if its roundness was affected by events and its quality was affected by events, some speculate about the decisions that will take place in the next few days that will pave the way for official bread declarations, and others joke about the loaf confused between Political systems, the point of tension between President Sisi’s supporters and opponents, and the searcher for “stuffing” suitable for the current circumstances, as it remains in the end full and divided without the condition of freshness.

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