Friday,22 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1311, (8 - 21 September 2016)
Friday,22 June, 2018
Issue 1311, (8 - 21 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Milking strategic products

The Armed Forces intervenes following protests against the shortage of baby formula, reports Reem Leila

Milking strategic products
Milking strategic products
Al-Ahram Weekly

On 3 September the Armed Forces announced that, in coordination with the Health Ministry, it would import baby formula. The first shipment will arrive to Egypt on 15 September.

Armed Forces spokesman Mohamed Samir says the army intervened to end attempts to manipulate the price of baby formula. “The army, which cannot ignore its civil role, acted to disrupt the manipulation of the price of a strategic product that was imposing a burden on ordinary citizens,” said Samir.

The Armed Forces also issued a statement denying rumours it was hoarding baby formula in its warehouse prior to selling it in the market. “The imported formula will be sold for LE30 instead of the current LE60 per box. This is a 50 per cent decrease in price,” read the statement.

Several months ago baby formula was being sold for LE16. As the exchange rate of the pound fell the price increased and the same boxes now retail for LE 60 — “a huge burden on families with limited incomes” says Samir.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed announced Minister of Health Ahmed Emadeddin has amended the criteria according to which subsidised baby formula is distributed.

“Families with twins will be eligible for subsidised baby formula, as will mothers unable to produce enough breast milk and those taking certain medications,” said Megahed.

The old criteria, according to Megahed, limited the distribution of subsidised baby formula to mothers with triplets and families in which the mother had died.

“The ministry is currently working on increasing the number of outlets selling subsidised baby formula from 1,005 to 1600 by the end of September,” added Megahed.

Karim Karam, spokesman of the state-owned Egyptian Pharmaceutical Trading Company (EPTC), says EPTC now plans to import and distribute 30 million baby formula packs. Twelve million will be distributed to pharmacies and the remaining 18 million spread between Health Ministry outlets.

Last week dozens of mothers carrying their infants demonstrated blocking the Nile Corniche and other parents gathered in front of the headquarters of the state-owned EPTC on the Nile Corniche to demonstrate against the shortage of subsidised baby formula and the hike in its price.   

The shortage, says Karam, was a result of the Ministry of Health’s July decision to stop assigning EPTC with importing and distributing the milk. “EPTC was no longer licensed to distribute subsidised baby formula,” says Karam. Despite this decision, the Armed Forces is now coordinating with the company and the Health Ministry to import subsidised formula.

“The decision issued by the minister of health in July stipulated that the ministry would henceforth distribute subsidised infant milk, using the smart card system, through motherhood clinics across the country,” said Karam. Following the decision EPTC sent its entire stock of formula to the 1,100 outlets.

Karam added that the ministry had failed to spread word, via the media, of the changes.

“Egypt relies heavily on imports for food but is suffering an acute dollar shortage. The government should consider establishing factories to produce strategic products instead of importing them,” said Karam.

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